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March 23, 2005

The Marietta Times (Ohio)

Front page

C8 testing could begin in July

By Pamela Brust

PARKERSBURG - Voluntary blood testing and medical surveys of class members in the C8 class action lawsuit filed against the DuPont Washington Works plant could begin in mid-July.

Also, awards of $50,000 each have been approved for the 12 original plaintiffs named in the C8 lawsuit, and Wood County Circuit Judge George W. Hill has also signed an order approving a separate settlement agreed to on behalf of five class members. These class members had filed an objection to the settlement reached between DuPont and class action plaintiffs.

At a Feb. 28 hearing, Judge Hill gave final approval to the settlement in the civil suit originally filed in August 2001 by 12 plaintiffs. The Washington-Lubeck area residents claimed their health was harmed by ammonium perfluorooctanoate, known as C8 and used by DuPont as part of its manufacturing process for Teflon. The plaintiffs alleged C8, discharged into area water supplies by DuPont's Washington Works plant across the Ohio River from Belpre, was causing them health problems. The suit was later granted class action status.

In May 2003, the court ordered mediation in the lawsuit. After extensive negotiations, the parties reached a settlement.

High levels of C8 have caused cancer in lab animals, but DuPont claims the detergent-like substance has no harmful effects on people. The federal Environmental Protection Agency is conducting a review of C8.

As part of that agreement, DuPont will pay for a health and education project gathering medical histories and blood samples from class members who have been exposed to C8. If it's determined there is a probable link between C8 exposure and any disease, DuPont will fund a medical motoring program for up to $235 million to pay for testing determined to be necessary. Class members will retain their right to file personal injury claims and related damages if an association is found.

In addition, DuPont will provide a water filtration system in Lubeck, and Mason counties in West Virginia, and Little Hocking, Belpre, Tuppers Plains and Pomeroy in Ohio to reduce C8 levels.

"It will probably be mid-July before testing can begin. It will take about 3 1/2 to four months set up time," said Harry G. Deitzler, one of plaintiffs' counsel.

In an order signed by Hill, the 12 original plaintiffs will each be awarded $50,000 as compensation for their "extra work and suffering, ridicule and false accusations experienced regarding their motives in bringing the lawsuit." The court order notes the original 12 were "ostracized and intimidated." The original plaintiffs had to provide personal medical histories, family histories, and be questioned on sensitive medical and health issues regarding themselves and their families, according to the court order. These awards will not reduce settlement funds.

One of the original plaintiffs, Joe Kiger, who resides in the Washington area, testified at the Feb. 28 hearing that he first became concerned about C8 in his drinking water after receiving a letter from his water supplier, Lubeck Public Service District in October 2000.

"As time went on, you heard about health problems in the neighborhood. Nobody seemed to have any answers," Kiger said, noting he contacted local, state, federal and plant officials in an effort to find what C8 was, why it was in the water and what, if any, health effects it might have on those who were drinking and or using the water. Kiger said filing the lawsuit was a last resort, and as a result of its filing, he and fellow plaintiffs were "criticized, and ostracized in the community by some people."

There was also a settlement reached with five class members who filed as objectors. According to the terms of this settlement, their attorneys will receive $72,500 in attorney fees and expenses for their services.