Ohio seeking damages over C8 production
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has called DuPont and The Chemours Company to account for contamination of state natural resources in a lawsuit filed in Washington County Common Pleas Court Thursday.
The current suit alleges that between 1951 and 2013 DuPont knowingly and intentionally released a toxic substance, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), also known as C8 and ammonium perflourooctanoate (APFO) in making products at its plant and in 2006 released false statements that there are “no health effects known to be caused by PFOA.”
“We believe all Ohioans have the right to enjoy their state’s natural resources without the risk of toxic exposure,” said Dan Tierney, spokesman for
Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office Thursday. “What we’re specifically asking for is for DuPont to determine what cleanup is needed and pay for it. It’s not something we can say where we’re seeking a set amount of dollars, but that the company abate a public nuisance they have created.”
Unlike specific or class action lawsuits that have focused on specific medical maladies linked to the discharge of toxic substances from DuPont’s Washington Works Plant near Parkersburg, this lawsuit focuses on environmental impact still unknown in the aquifers and soil of Washington County.
The lawsuit states five counts:
¯ Public nuisance.
¯ Statutory nuisance.
¯ Punitive damages.
And this is not the first study and mitigation DuPont has been charged with paying for.
A study released in 2012 found probable links between C8 and conditions such as thyroid disease and testicular and kidney cancers. DuPont paid for the study to settle a complaint by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
By June 2005 reports from the U.S. EPA described PFOA as a likely human carcinogen and in 2008 West Virginia University scientists reported findings of PFOA’s link to liver damage, lowering levels of protein in the human immune system, high cholesterol levels in children and effects on thyroid function.
“DuPont knowingly contaminated soil, groundwater, surface waters and drinking water supplies in Ohio with PFOA via aerial emissions and discharges into the Ohio River from the plant. DuPont also disposed of PFOA-containing waste at several sites in Ohio,” reads the lawsuit. “Yet DuPont has refused to invest in systems that would reduce PFOA emissions or replace PFOA with more environmentally-safe materials.”
The suit notes that PFOA can still be found in public water supplies from the Ohio River Buried Valley Aquifer in Washington and Meigs counties and persists in the soil, grass and tree samples.
PFOA has been linked to kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, pregnancy-induced hypertension and high cholesterol.
But DuPont and its 2015 spin-off The Chemours Company have continued to fight allegations of contamination in water and land surrounding the local plant.
“DuPont has not been served, and therefore we cannot comment,” said Dan Turner, representing DuPont Corporate Media Relations, on Thursday when contacted about the most recent lawsuit.
Other lawsuits the companies face include a joint class action lawsuit in North Carolina on allegations that the companies contaminated the Cape Fear River with fluorosurfactants. That class-action suit consolidates three class action suits filed last October representing thousands of individuals who claim they are ill because they drank water from the river and wells surrounding the North Carolina plant.
The story is similar to the plight unearthed in Parkersburg and the surrounding Mid-Ohio Valley, noted in DeWine’s lawsuit Thursday.
“DuPont intentionally concealed the dangers of PFOA from governmental entities and the public at large in order to protect its profits and avoid public responsibility for injuries and damage caused by its toxic product,” reads the suit. “As early as 1966, DuPont was aware that PFOA could leach into groundwater…By 1961 DuPont’s own researchers had concluded that PFOA was toxic and according to its Toxicology Section Chief, should be ‘handled with extreme care.’ During the 1960s, DuPont had knowledge that PFOA had adverse liver reactions in dogs and rats.”
The lawsuit goes on to claim that by 1976 research reports had detected organic flourine in blood bank samples which researchers believed to be a result of human exposure to PFOA.
“By 1979 DuPont possessed data indicating that its workers who were exposed to PFOA had a significantly higher incidence of health issues, including abnormal liver function, as compared to unexposed workers,” continues the suit, noting when primates were subjected to PFOA, they died. “DuPont failed to report this data, or the results of its worker health status analysis to any government agency or community near any of its manufacturing facilities that used, handled, or released PFOA.”
By 1981 findings within the company noted 29 percent of the children born to women who had worked with fluoropolymers had birth defects in their eyes and face and by the end of that same year DeWine notes DuPont was aware that PFOA was being released from the local plant into the surrounding air in the Mid-Ohio Valley.
A continued timeline in the lawsuit goes on to note the first detection of PFOA in public water sources in Ohio, specifically Little Hocking.
“DuPont was also aware that the well field for the (Little Hocking Water Association) public water supply was located upstream from any effluent discharged to the Ohio River from the plant, in fact, it was located in the prevailing wind direction from the plant,” reads the suit. “Yet DuPont did not disclose its data or results to the U.S. EPA, state government agencies or the general public.”
Little Hocking Water Association settled a 2009 lawsuit against DuPont in 2015 with neither party disclosing the details of the settlement when the lawsuit was dismissed in U.S. District Court.
The manager of the water association was not available for comment Thursday.
At a glance
¯ The Ohio Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit in Washington County Common Pleas Court Thursday against DuPont and Chemours.
¯ The lawsuit calls the companies negligent of the health of Washington County residents and natural resources.
¯ The lawsuit asks the court to require DuPont and Chemours to pay for additional environmental study and mitigation of toxic contamination of air, water and land in the county.
¯ DuPont and Chemours would not comment Thursday.
Source: Washington County Common Pleas Court, Ohio Attorney General’s Office, du Pont.