Fluoride Action Network

Ohio: DuPont responds to Little Hocking Water Association suit

Source: Marietta Times (Ohio) | February 2nd, 2010 | By Brad Bauer
Industry type: Perfluorinated chemicals

DuPont attorneys filed 75 defenses last week in response to a federal lawsuit brought by the Little Hocking Water Association over C8 contamination and are asking for the suit to be dismissed.

A preliminary pretrial conference on the case is set for 2:30 p.m. in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio Eastern Division in Columbus.

The water association is asking the court to order DuPont to fund a comprehensive cleanup of all affected well fields and an investigation, assessment and cleanup or containment of all sources of contamination. The suit also seeks unspecified compensation for damages.

The association claims the water filtration system DuPont installed and maintains is not enough to adequately protect the public from C8 and other related chemicals that taint the water system there.

DuPont officials say the complaint is without merit and it should be dismissed. In its response to the suit, the company claims the water association is barred from seeking relief because it was a party in a 2004 class action suit in Wood County, W.Va.

“(Little Hocking Water Association) released its claims against DuPont arising from DuPont’s use of PFOA (or C8) at Washington Works incident to the settlement of that action,” DuPont attorneys argue in their response, filed Friday. “(Their) claims are being presented for improper purpose, including but not limited to obtaining a windfall despite the existence of a settlement agreement governing the subject matter of (the complaint) under which (they) received a substantial benefit….”

Benefits the company referred to include building, funding and maintaining the filtration system.

DuPont officials also argue the company should not be subject to the suit because it has complied with all applicable statutes and regulations set forth by local, state and federal governments with regard to the alleged conduct in the complaint.

None of the attorneys named in the suit could be reached for comment Monday.

C8, also known as perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA, has been used at the Washington Works plant, located in Washington, W.Va., directly across the Ohio River from Little Hocking, in the Teflon-manufacturing process since the 1950s.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers C8 and related chemicals as “a likely carcinogen.” Other ongoing health studies suspect prolonged exposure may contribute to elevated cholesterol, difficulty conceiving, weakened immune systems and birth defects, according to the lawsuit.

DuPont maintains the chemical has no known human health effects.

DuPont attorneys also argued the suit should be dismissed because Little Hocking has filed similar suits in 2007 in Washington County, which are still pending.

Little Hocking Water Association provides water to an estimated 12,000 individuals at homes, schools and businesses in eight townships in Washington County and two Athens County townships.

C8 was detected in the water supplies of six area water districts, including Belpre and Little Hocking, in 2002, leading to a class-action lawsuit. The settlement of the lawsuit resulted in the creation of a science panel to study the chemical and DuPont providing filtration systems for the affected water districts.

The Little Hocking filtration system went into effect in November 2007.

DuPont officials have said the filtration systems have been “effective and efficient” and C8 levels in those systems are below the allowable community exposure standards for the chemical.

However, the lawsuit alleges the allowable exposure standards should not apply in Little Hocking because of chronic exposure. The levels of C8 and other related DuPont chemicals recorded in the water system and in blood samples of its users is considerably higher than any other population.

“The average level of PFOA in the blood of people in the United States is 5.6 ppb,” according to the suit.

Residents in the Little Hocking water system ranges from 112 ppb to 1,950 ppb, the suit alleges.

The concern, according to the suit, is that PFOA is continuing to accumulate in the blood of area residents.

Little Hocking Water Association general manager Robert Griffin has referred all questions about the suit to the association’s attorney, David Altman, of Cincinnati. Altman did not return a call seeking comment.

It was not immediately clear what the current levels of PFOA are after filtration in the water system.

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