CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A federal judge on Monday dismissed most of a lawsuit filed against chemical giant DuPont Co. by Parkersburg residents over the pollution of their city’s water with the toxic chemical C8.
U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin dismissed claims of negligence, nuisance, trespassing and battery, almost a year to the day after refusing to allow Parkersburg residents to pursue their case against DuPont as a class-action lawsuit.
Goodwin allowed residents to continue to pursue only a part of the lawsuit that seeks to force DuPont to pay for medical monitoring for early detection of any illnesses linked to C8 contamination.
In a 41-page ruling, Goodwin concluded residents did not have a case on most of their claims. The judge also found that court is not the proper place to decide what to do about any problems caused by DuPont’s discharge of C8 into the Parkersburg community.
“The potential effects of these chemicals on human health are of great public concern,” Goodwin wrote. “Issues of institutional competence, however, caution against judicial involvement in regulatory affairs.
“Courts are designed to remediate, not regulate,” Goodwin wrote.
C8 is another name for ammonium perfluorooctanoate, or PFOA. DuPont has used the chemical since the 1950s at its Washington Works plant south of Parkersburg. C8 is a processing agent used to make Teflon and other nonstick products, oil-resistant paper packaging and stain-resistant textiles.
Around the world, researchers are finding that people have C8 and other perfluorochemicals, or PFCs, in their blood at low levels. Evidence is mounting about the chemical’s dangerous effects, but regulators have yet to set a federal standard for emissions or human exposure.
In September 2004, DuPont agreed to a $107.6 million settlement with residents of communities around Parkersburg. The money is funding two major studies of C8’s health impacts, and DuPont could end up on the hook for another $235 million in medical testing costs if a link to illness is proven. DuPont also installed treatment systems to get the chemical out of local water.
Wood Circuit Court Judge George W. Hill had certified those communities’ case as a class action. At the time the settlement deal was made, though, C8 had not yet been found in the Parkersburg city water supply.
Later, C8 was detected there, and a follow-up lawsuit was filed. It ended up in front of Goodwin because of a 2005 law that said federal courts must handle proposed class actions that involve significant amounts of money or parties from different states.
DuPont spokesman Dan Turner said, “We are still in the process of reviewing Judge Goodwin’s order, but pleased he has dismissed virtually all the claims. The company will continue to defend itself as the case proceeds.”