Press Releases

Chemical Companies Accused of Poisoning Drinking Water with Known Toxins

October 24, 2017


North Carolina Resident Alleges DuPont & Chemours Endangered Her Family’s Health, Safety and Property by
Dumping Toxic Chemicals into State Water Supply

Plaintiff Represented by Same Court-Appointed Lead Attorney in Lawsuits Over
Water Contamination in Flint, Michigan

WILMINGTON, N.C. – Multinational chemical corporation DuPont (NYSE: DD) and its wholly-owned subsidiary, the Chemours Company (NYSE: CC), exposed hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians to water laden with toxic chemicals that have been linked to a wide range of diseases, public health, and environmental effects, and misinformed the government and public about the health dangers created by their actions, according to a federal class-action lawsuit filed late Monday. The allegations were made on behalf of North Carolina residents, in five counties that get their drinking water from a river contaminated by the companies’ dumping. The plaintiff is a resident of the region; her whose drinking water was recently tested and found to have severely elevated levels of GenX and other poisonous substances. She says the companies’ decades-long toxic dumping has endangered the lives and health of residents and seriously affected their properties and property values.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the affected counties — New Hanover, Bladen, Brunswick, Cumberland, and Pender — have the highest concentration of liver disease in the United States. Further, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services says the rates of liver, pancreatic, testicular and kidney cancers are higher in the five counties than anywhere else in the state.

Since 1980, DuPont and Chemours have been dumping toxic waste, including byproducts of C8, GenX, and Nafion, into a river that supplies drinking water to five North Carolina counties with a combined population of over 750,000. As DuPont’s own testing has shown, these poisons can cause liver, pancreatic, testicular and kidney cancer, liver disease, fetal and birth defects.

“For over 35 years, DuPont and Chemours have put the lives and health of hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children at risk,” said Ted Leopold of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, co-counsel for the plaintiff in the suit. “Nothing will take away the health risks these North Carolinians have experienced, but it is important that these willful acts by DuPont and Chemours be brought to light so corporate misconduct of putting innocent lives at risk will stop. These defendants need to be held accountable and take full responsibility for their actions.”

Leopold is also co-lead counsel in a class action brought by Flint, MI residents against Gov. Rick Snyder, 17 local government officials, the City of Flint and a group of engineering companies over the now-infamous contamination of the Flint water supply.

DuPont, a multinational chemical manufacturer, develops high-performance polymers for use in products across various industries, including Teflon, which uses the chemical GenX in its manufacturing process, and Nafion, a product which is a compound of Teflon and other fluoridated chemicals. The Chemours Company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of DuPont, under which it had been depositing byproducts of GenX and Nafion into the Cape Fear River for years – even prior to its spinoff from DuPont – from its 2,000-acre Fayetteville Works plant, located upstream from the drinking water intakes of the five counties.

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 complaint asserts that DuPont “failed to tell the EPA that it had been discharging GenX for decades without meeting regulatory waste standards.” As detailed in the lawsuit, the company even represented to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that GenX was sent to an off-site incinerator, a claim later proven to be false.

Chemours admitted publicly to discharging GenX in 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.

In response to the now-public health crisis, North Carolina established a health-based standard for GenX of 140 ppt. According to the complaint, a June 2017 sampling of bottom sludge collected from a water heater at a residence in Brunswick County detected GenX at 857 ppt in the top layer of sludge and 623 ppt in the bottom layer of sludge. The lead plaintiff in the case has tap water with GenX levels that exceed the state standard.

“Can you imagine what it’s like worrying if the water you’re giving your family could kill them? That’s my daily reality and the reality of so many families across areas of North Carolina that get their water from the Cape Fear River,” said plaintiff Victoria Carey, a resident of Leland, North Carolina. September 2017 testing of water drawn from her home revealed elevated levels of GenX and Nafion that exceeded regulatory standards.

Ms. Carey continued: “I’m standing up because I can’t let DuPont and Chemours get away with putting our health at risk and contaminating our properties. DuPont and Chemours need to take responsibility for their years of bad actions and willful misconduct.”

“DuPont and Chemours and the responsible decision-makers within these companies put thousands of North Carolina citizens’ health at risk for years,” said Steve Morrissey of Susman Godfrey, L.L.P, co-counsel for the plaintiff in the suit. “The residents of North Carolina have suffered long enough and deserved better. We look forward to getting them the protection and justice they both need and deserve.”

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.

The lawsuit filed Monday seeks class-action status on behalf of the residents in New Hanover, Bladen, Brunswick, Cumberland, and Pender counties who have been or are currently exposed to the contaminated water, as well as injunctive relief and monetary damages for repairs of private property and medical monitoring to provide health care and other appropriate services for residents.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of North Carolina. The plaintiff is represented by Ted Leopold, Martha Geer and Doug Bunch of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC; and Vineet Bhatia, Steve Morrissey and Jordan Connors of Susman Godfrey, L.L.P.

For media inquiries, please contact Denise Luu at 646.693.8188 or send an email.

About Cohen Milstein

Founded in 1969, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC is a national leader in plaintiff class action lawsuits and litigation. As one of the premier firms in the country handling major complex cases, Cohen Milstein, with 90 attorneys, has offices in Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and Raleigh, N.C.

About Susman Godfrey

For more than thirty years, Susman Godfrey LLP has focused its nationally recognized practice on just one thing: high-stakes commercial litigation. We are one of the nation’s leading litigation boutique law firms with offices in Houston, Seattle, Los Angeles and New York. We have a unique perspective, the will to win, and an uncommon structure, which taken together provide the way to win.

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