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March 1, 2005
The Marietta Times (Ohio)
From staff and wire reports
Wood County judge OKs settlement in C8 class-action suit
A judge on Monday approved the settlement of the class-action lawsuit alleging a chemical used in making the nonstick substance Teflon contaminated water supplies around DuPont's plant near Parkersburg.
Wood County, W.Va., Circuit Judge George W. Hill called the settlement - in which DuPont Co. agreed to pay at least $107.6 million - "a very shrewdly and competently organized proposal and it seems to be a very unprecedented action by a huge corporate defendant."
At the hearing in Parkersburg, Hill noted that the settlement was finalized without any evidence that perfluorooctanoic acid, known as PFOA or C8, caused any disease.
The lawsuit was filed in August 2001 on behalf of residents living near DuPont's Washington Works plant, located on the Ohio River just across from the Little Hocking Water Association water wells. The citizens say their drinking supply was contaminated by the chemical.
Under the agreement, blood tests will be conducted on current customers of six area water districts, which will include Little Hocking; Lubeck, W.Va.; Belpre; Tuppers Plains; Mason County, W.Va.; and Pomeroy. The agreement also affects former customers of those suppliers along with nearby residents with private wells.
The agreement also calls for DuPont, based in Wilmington, Del., to provide the six drinking water utilities with new treatment equipment to reduce PFOA in water supplies at an estimated cost of $10 million.
It was welcomed news to residents who still do not know for sure the health effects, if any, the chemical poses.
"From what I understand, what I normally drink it wouldn't really be enough to damage my health," said Little Hocking resident Dolly Gordon, 83. "But I'm glad to know they are going to filter our water because I'm not sure anyone really knows for sure."
DuPont also is to fund a $5 million independent study to determine if PFOA makes people sick and pay $22.6 million in legal fees and expenses for residents who sued.
"I think DuPont stepped up to put the matter back where it should be - before scientists," said Larry Jannsen, the lead attorney for DuPont.
Ultimately DuPont could be forced to spend another $235 million on a program to monitor the health of residents who were exposed to the chemical.
DuPont has denied any wrongdoing but said in September it decided to enter into the agreement because of the time and expense of litigation.
"I've never seen a class-action settlement of this magnitude, which specifically addresses real-life health concerns of class members in the manner that this settlement will do," said plaintiffs' attorney Harry Deitzler.
"We set out to find the truth on C-8 and as a result of this settlement we will find the truth," he said.
Participation in the lawsuit does not rule out future litigation against DuPont if the scientific panel finds C8 harmful.
On the Net
EPA's PFOA page: http://www.epa.gov/opptintr/pfoa/index.htm