By SONYA ANGELICA DIEHN
December 2, 2009
COLUMBUS, Ohio (CN) - DuPont has been covering up and refusing to take responsibility for its toxic pollution of the Ohio River for a quarter of a century, and the poisons it uses to make Teflon stay in the environment for 2,000 years, a nonprofit water association claims in Federal Court.
The Little Hocking Water Association says that air and water emissions of perflourinated compounds from DuPont's Washington Works Plant have been polluting its wellfields since 1984.
These chemicals, which DuPont uses to make Teflon products, stay in the environment for up to 2,000 years, and accumulate in the tissue of living things, causing developmental and immunological problems, the water group says.
It claims at least four wells on 45 acres along the Ohio River were polluted by DuPont's disposal of hazardous waste in landfills, injection wells and burn pits.
The water association claims that DuPont hid the threats of perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, despite knowing of its risks - including the birth of deformed babies to its employees in 1981.
DuPont allegedly acknowledged the contamination by buying out one local water supplier, but refused to extend such an offer to Little Hocking. DuPont for many years also refused to allow the single laboratory with the ability to test for such substances to do so, the group says.
Little Hocking claims that in 1991 DuPont set a "community exposure guideline" for the chemical, a liver toxin, at 1 part per billion. Sampling from the water association's wellfields in 2001 showed levels of 7.69 ppb, the complaint states. Current tests put that figure as high as 78 ppb.
A March 2009 level of .4 ppb, set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is not enough to protect the water association's 12,000 consumers, it says, due to their chronic exposure and potential "synergistic" effects with other perflourinated compounds in the water.
The group cites a 2003 class action in which the court determined that DuPont's release was active and intentional. Little Hocking says that an EPA consent order does not adequately protect its customers.
The Water Association says it has suffered financial hardship since 2001, when it began to address the problem on its own. This includes funding a bottled water program, for which it claims DuPont promised to it; it says DuPont stopped doing so in 2007.
The water association wants DuPont ordered to stop polluting, clean up what it has done, and conduct a scientific study on the effects of PFOA. It is represented by David Altman of Cincinnati.