Class Action – Part 1
“Mysterious wasting disease” and
death of 260 cattle in West Virginia
are linked to DuPont’s landfilling of PFOA
(Ammonium perfluorooctanoate or C8) wastes near the farm.
In 1999, a farm farmily sued DuPont for the death of their cattle and the ill health of exposed family and farm workers. DuPont settled the lawsuit within 2 years. Due to the settlement, few details are available to the public.
However, it was this incident that eventually led to a Class Action lawsuit against DuPont and a local water company, for the contamination of drinking water supplies with C8. The C8 contamination originated from DuPont’s Washington Works facility in Wood County, West Virginia.
According to news reports,
- … Ohioans who live near the DuPont plant can thank a West Virginia farmer for setting in motion a series of events that informed the public about the C8 contamination. Wilbur Tennant and his wife, Sandra, won a legal settlement from DuPont two years ago after they accused the company of sickening their family and killing their cattle by dumping C8 into a landfill near their farm. When their attorney, Robert Bilott of Cincinnati, asked the EPA to order DuPont to stop using C8, the company sought a restraining order to prevent ”intense media coverage” of the request…. A federal judge rejected the request for a restraining order… Ref: February 16, 2003, INTERNAL WARNINGS: Industry memos show DUPONT knew for decades that a chemical used to make Teflon is polluting workers and neighbors, by Michael Hawthorne, The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio).
- … Our law firm has been receiving and reviewing a substantial amount of internal correspondence and internal, unpublished reports from DuPont and 3M concerning C-8 since the surnmer of 2000, when our law firm began receiving C-8 documents from DuPont in connection with discovery related to claims that C-8 being discharged from DuPont’s Dry Run Landfill in Wood County, West Virginia, was killing hundreds of head of cattle who were drinking from the Dry Run Creek. As of today’s date, we have received and reviewed approximately 185,000 pages of documents from DuPont and 3M relating to the toxicity and effects of C-8… Ref: March 26, 2002, Letter from Robert A. Bilott of Taft, Stettinius & Hollster, 425 Walnut Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202; to governmental agencies. Re: Jack W. Leach, et al. v. E.I. duPont de Nemours and Company et al. (Circuit Court of Wood Cty. WV. Civil Action No. 01-C-608).
The following excerpts are from an article by Callie Lyons published in The Marietta Times (Ohio), Examining the water we drink: Family’s lost herd led to revelations about C8, September 27, 2003:
… Although DuPont and other corporations had been aware of the existence of C8 for 50 years because it is a key ingredient in the making of the non-stick substance, the people who live near the DuPont Washington Works plant along the Ohio River were not made aware it was being released into their air and water until the Tennants started looking for answers. The concerns of the Tennant family would eventually prompt multiple investigations, involving half a dozen government regulatory agencies, into the manufacturing chemical scientists recognize as PFOA.
A mysterious wasting disease killed 280 cattle on the Tennants’ farm near the Dry Run Landfill in the 1980s. The cause of the cattle deaths were never conclusively associated with chemical contamination from DuPont, but the company settled with the Tennant family for an undisclosed amount in light of the allegations. Jim and Della Tennant claim that family members who worked with the herd and lived near the property also began to fall sick with sinus and respiratory problems and skin and other cancers. And, when the Tennants asked their attorneys to look into the cause of the illnesses and pursue action against DuPont, C8 is what they found.
The Tennants were among hundreds of industry representatives, scientists, and other interested parties who attended an EPA hearing on C8 in June in anticipation of enforceable consent agreements that will provide for further scientific testing of the controversial substance.
But while the C8 is a relatively new concern to many, it’s been an issue for the Tennants for almost 20 years.
In 1968, when the Tennants purchased 68 acres of land along West Virginia Route 68, the nearest neighbor was half a mile away.
“We were three-quarters of a mile off the hard road,” Jim Tennant said. “It was paradise.”
In 1984 they sold an adjoining portion of their land to DuPont and it became the Dry Run Landfill. They moved from the location within seven months, but maintain rental property at the site.
Jim Tennant claims a difference in the land was noticeable within a year of the landfill acquisition.
“Shortly after, there were no minnows in the stream. There were deer carcasses lying around, and things were dying,” Jim Tennant said. “There were problems.”
But, those weren’t the only problems the family would observe. After their herd of cattle began to die off, they claim the family members who worked with the cattle and lived near the farm were also becoming seriously ill.
The Tennants’ losses have never been conclusively scientifically linked to pollution from the landfill, but they believe they are related.
Dr. Kris Thayer, a scientist who has studied the case and interviewed the Tennants as part of her research into PFOA for the Environmental Working Group, a watchdog agency in Washington, D.C., said the mysterious syndrome that struck the cattle was consistent with what has been observed in laboratory animals exposed to C8.
“When you look at metabolic problems, that’s what animals do in laboratory studies,” Thayer said. “Animals waste away and lose weight.”
… Based upon a U.S. EPA draft report entitled Dry Run Creek, 1997, which is cited in the cattle study, carnivorous, piscivorous, omnivorous, insectivorous, and herbivorous mammals in the Dry Run Creek study area are at increased health risk due to exposure to metals, fluoride, and trichlorofluoromethane.
But, the conclusion of the veterinary team was that the Tennants’ herd was suffering from four major disease entities: endophyte toxicity, pinkeye, malnutrition, and copper deficiency. The herd health investigation revealed deficiencies in herd management, including poor nutrition, inadequate veterinary care, and lack of fly control, which the report said is to blame for the cattle deaths.
The Tennants refute the report’s claim that the herd wasted as a result of poor management. The Tennants don’t blame C8 alone, but they believe it is a chemical pollution problem. After 40 years of successful cattle ranching, they believe it was chemical contamination that devastated the herd within a span of 10 years.
The terms of the Tennants’ settlement remain secret, and as a result of that action, they are not eligible as class members in the pending C8 suit.
PHOTO – New York Times