In many ways, the environmental crisis in the Ohio River Valley is now playing out in North Carolina, where DuPont made C8 at the Fayetteville Works plant until it began to switch to the related compound GenX.
Part 1 of the series, In the dark: The story behind GenX. Read Part 2 here.
Thirty-four years ago, an employee from a DuPont plant near Parkersburg, West Virginia, filled a jug with tap water from a little general store just across the Ohio River called Mason’s Village Market.
An internal DuPont document shows that the company was secretly testing the water for ammonium perfluorooctanoate — better known as C8. DuPont employees also took samples from stores in eight other unsuspecting communities in the Ohio River Valley.
The document shows C8 was detected at three stores closest to the plant, including Mason’s Village Market in Little Hocking, Ohio. It also shows that, at one of those stores, the level of C8 measured more than 20 times higher than what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today considers safe for drinking water.
DuPont conducted more tests around the sprawling Washington Works plant but never told anyone about its findings. It just continued as it had since 1951, using C8 to keep Teflon and other slippery coatings from clumping during the manufacturing process and pouring the waste into the Ohio River or allowing it to escape from smokestacks.
Residents of Little Hocking, Lubeck and Washington kept right on with their daily lives, too, drinking tap water laced with a chemical that DuPont knew back then caused diseases in laboratory animals. Today, C8 is considered a probable cause of kidney and testicular cancer in humans, as well as other diseases.
It wasn’t until about 2002 — 18 years later — that Little Hocking residents and thousands of other people living near the DuPont plant would learn that C8 had contaminated their drinking water.
Residents have responded by joining newly filed class-action lawsuits that say DuPont and Chemours misled and deceived environmental regulators and the North Carolina public.
One suit filed in October accuses the companies of stating on permit applications that any wastes containing perfluorinated compounds, such as GenX, would be taken off site and incinerated or buried in landfills. Instead, much of that waste was released into the Cape Fear River or into the air, the lawsuit says.
“Defendants’ lies about the way they were disposing of GenX were particularly harmful,” the lawsuit says, “because neither state nor local water providers knew that Defendants were discharging GenX into the local water supply, they could not and did not design water filters to keep families from drinking that poison.”
The suit alleges that DuPont and Chemours knew from DuPont’s own research that the chemicals they released were “extremely dangerous” but continued to do so anyway, “simply to avoid the expense of taking safety precautions.”
To access the full article, click here.