On January 31, 2018, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC and Susman Godfrey, Interim Co-Lead Class Counsel filed a consolidated toxic tort class action complaint on behalf of plaintiffs against E.I. DuPont de Nemours Company (NYSE: DD), and its former wholly-owned subsidiary, The Chemours Company (NYSE: CC) with the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of North Carolina, Southern Division.

The consolidated complaint details extensive health problems of many Cape Fear residents, beyond previously stated claims of property damage, including diagnoses of colon and stomach cancer, among other issues. The complaint also cites a January 11, 2018 study, published in Environment International by independent researchers at Stockholm University, which suggests that GenX is even more toxic than PFOA. The complaint further alleges that DuPont overlooked the results of its own testing on GenX and illegally discharged the chemical into North Carolina’s Cape Fear River from its Fayetteville Works plant and lied to government regulators, claiming it was disposing of GenX safely when in fact it was not. As detailed in the lawsuit, the company even represented to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state regulators that GenX was sent to an off-site incinerator, a claim later proven to be false.

Cohen Milstein was appointed Interim Co-Lead Class Counsel on January 4, 2018 by Chief U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina, James C. Dever III.

Cohen Milstein’s team is led by Theodore J. Leopold, and includes S. Douglas Bunch, Jamie Bowers and Alison Deich.

Case Background

DuPont is a developer of high-performance polymers for use in products across various industries, including synthetic chemical compounds in the manufacturing of Teflon and other products that promote fire resistance and oil, stain, grease and water repellence. These chemical compounds, including GenX and Nafion, are not found naturally in the environment, but once they are discharged, they are very persistent in the environment and the human body

DuPont introduced GenX in 2009 as a safer alternative to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical it had used for decades to manufacture Teflon and other products in places like North Carolina and West Virginia. The chemical raised health concerns after it seeped into drinking water sources and locals developed cancers, hormonal dysfunction and autoimmune diseases.

Since 1980, DuPont and Chemours have been dumping toxic waste from its 2,000-acre Fayetteville Works plant, including GenX and Nafion byproducts, into the Cape Fear River which supplies drinking water to five North Carolina counties with a combined population of over 770,000. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the affected counties -- New Hanover, Bladen, Brunswick, Cumberland and Pender -- have among the highest concentration of liver disease in the United States. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services says the rates of liver, pancreatic, testicular and kidney cancers are higher in certain of the five counties than the state averages, and DuPont’s own testing has shown that these chemicals can cause liver, pancreatic, testicular and kidney cancer, liver disease, fetal and birth defects. 

Despite conducting multiple internal tests that confirmed the toxicity of GenX, DuPont dismissed its own findings, continued the dumping and never disclosed the existence of the toxic waste or the related test results to residents or local utility companies. The class action lawsuit asserts that DuPont lied to government regulators, claiming it was disposing of GenX safely when in fact it was not. As detailed in the lawsuit, the company even represented to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state regulators that GenX was sent to an off-site incinerator, a claim later proven to be false.

Chemours admitted publicly to discharging GenX into the North Carolina public water supply in June 2017, after a team of researchers from the North Carolina State University detected the chemical downriver from the Fayetteville Works plant. In September 2017, the North Carolina Division of Water Resources sought to suspend Chemours’ National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, citing the company’s years-long misrepresentation and failure to disclose the dumping of GenX and Nafion byproducts.

The toxic dumping has not only polluted more than 100 miles of the river but also caused extensive damage to thousands of miles of municipal and residential piping. Chemicals like GenX and Nafion are nearly impossible to eradicate from the water supply once contamination has occurred. They are known to bond with pipes, microbes, plants, animals and sediments and water authorities are not able to filter out the chemicals. To mitigate risks, extensive water filtration is needed at the municipal and residential levels, with removal and replacement of plumbing and appliances inside the home considered the safest and most effective option, potentially costing thousands of dollars for each home.

On December 15, 2017, plaintiffs’ counsel filed a motion for expedited discovery to take on-site wastewater samples to further determine the extent of GenX water contamination and potential ill health effects in the Fayetteville, N.C. area. Earlier that month, a sampling by North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality showed GenX levels in the water by the Fayetteville Works plant had spiked to levels more than 16 times higher than the state’s standards.

The class action lawsuit seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief for physical injury, property damage and reduced property values, and the cost of filtering contaminated water and air sustained by residents in New Hanover, Bladen, Brunswick, Cumberland and Pender counties who have been or are currently exposed to the contaminants.

The original toxic tort class action filed lawsuit filed by Cohen Milstein and co-counsel, Susman Godfrey, L.L.P., on October 23, 2017 is styled Victoria Carey, et al. v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company, et al., Case No. 7:17-CV-201-D, U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of North Carolina, Southern Division.

The four other consolidate putative class actions are styled: Brent Nix, et al. v. The Chemours Company FC, LLC, et al., Case No. 7:17-CV-189-D; Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, et al. v. The Chemours Company FC, LLC, et al., Case No. 7:17-CV-195D; Roger Morton, et al. v. The Chemours Company, et al., Case No. 7:17-CV-197-D; Brunswick Country, et al. v. DowDupont, Inc. et al., Case No. 7:17-CV-209-D. All were filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of North Carolina, Southern Division.

For More Information

For press inquiries about the Cape Fear River, NC, Water Contamination Litigation, please contact Denise Luu at 646.693.8188 or email cohenmilstein@berlinrosen.com. For more information about joining the Cape Fear River, NC, Water Contamination Litigation, please contact Ted Leopold at Cohen Milstein at 561.515.1400.