Ohio sues DuPont over C8 contamination concerns
Source: Columbus Dispatch (OH), February 9, 2018
Posted on: http://www.advisen.com
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has filed suit against chemical company DuPont, alleging it released toxic perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) or C8, for decades from its Washington Works plant on the Ohio River — despite knowing potential health and environmental risks.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday, calls for DuPont to fund an investigation into PFOA contamination as well as pay for any necessary cleanup of the man-made chemical, which has been linked to various health risks, including kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, low birth weight and high cholesterol.
“We think Ohioans have the right to enjoy the state’s natural resources without interacting with these chemicals,” said Dan Tierney, a spokesman with the Attorney General’s office.
A DuPont spokesperson declined to comment, saying the company had not yet been served with the lawsuit.
PFOA builds up and persists in blood as well as in soil and water, where it is resistant to regular environmental degradation.
Perfluorochemicals have been used in fire-fighting foams and in the manufacturing of cookware, furniture, carpeting, and stain- and water-resistant coatings.
DuPont used PFOA to manufacture Teflon products from the 1950s through 2013.
According to the state’s lawsuit, DuPont released the chemical from its Washington Works plant — located near Parkersburg, West Virginia — for decades. The company ignored internal research and medical staff conclusions that PFOA was toxic and could cause serious health problems and instead allegedly released more of the contaminant into the air, water and land around the plant.
A 2017 University of Cincinnati study analyzed blood samples collected between 1991 and 2012 from the Mid-Ohio River Valley region. Researchers found elevated blood levels of PFOA in residents stretching from Evansville, Indiana to Huntington, West Virginia.
“One of the key factors in pulling the trigger on litigation like this is information gathering,” Tierney said. “We have better evidence and better measures of the effects of what was allegedly contaminated in the area. We believe now, with the progression of science … we have a really strong case.”
In February 2017, DuPont and its spinoff company Chemours agreed to pay nearly $671 million to settle 3,500 lawsuits filed in federal district courts over C8 contamination from its plant near Parkersburg. The lawsuits were consolidated into multidistrict ligitation, also known as MDL, before U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr., chief of the Southern District of Ohio in Columbus. The idea is that after a few test cases are resolved, the remaining plaintiffs might decide to settle, withdraw their cases or continue to trial.
Most of the lawsuits involved Mid-Ohio Valley residents who said they developed cancer and other ailments by drinking water contaminated with C8 dumped by DuPont in the Ohio River and spewed from its smokestacks.
The company also paid a $16.5 million fine in 2005 for hiding from the public for decades that C8 was toxic and a possible human carcinogen.
Robert Bilott, a Cincinnati lawyer involved in many of the individual suits, said litigation against DuPont is ongoing across the country.
“Litigation seems to be continuing,” he said. “(Thursday’s) complaint reflects recognition by the state of Ohio that these particular materials present a risk and they should be addressed properly.”
In January, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asked Chemours to test public and private drinking water supplies in communities along the Ohio River for a different chemical, GenX, also used to make products including Teflon, according to Bloomberg News.
Dr. Paul Brooks, a retired physician in Parkersburg, has spent decades battling PFOA contamination. He helped lead the C8 Science Project, a collection of comprehensive health data from 70,000 people exposed to PFOA near the Washington Works plant, and is an adviser for the watchdog environmental organization Keep Your Promises DuPont.
He said there’s still much progress to be made.
“The ground is soaked with it. It’s not like a dump where you can go in and destroy the toxic material,” Brooks said. “We’d have to unearth the earth to get rid of it.”
Once litigation is resolved, he said, serious environmental cleanup and health monitoring will be necessary.
“At least we’ve got it exposed, if you want to call that progress,” he said.