The Charleston Gazette (West
May 20 2005
DuPont faces C8 criminal probe
Department of Justice demands company
turn over documents
By Ken Ward Jr.
Federal investigators have begun a criminal probe of DuPont Co.’s
handling of issues surrounding the toxic chemical C8, company
and government officials confirmed Thursday.
The U.S. Department of Justice has demanded that DuPont turn
over hundreds of thousands of records concerning the chemical
and company studies of its dangers.
In a statement Thursday morning, DuPont said it received a grand
jury subpoena for the records on Tuesday.
The statement said the subpoena sought documents “previously
produced to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other
documents related to those chemicals.”
DuPont spokesman R. Clifton Webb characterized the subpoena as
“extensive and comprehensive.”
Webb said DuPont had “been aware of [federal prosecutors’]
interest” in the C8 case prior to receiving the subpoena.
He declined to say when the company became aware of the investigation.
Ben Pollitt, a Justice Department spokesman, confirmed that the
subpoena had been issued, but declined to comment further.
C8 is another name for perfluorooctanoate, and also is known
as perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA.
At its Washington Works plant south of
Parkersburg, DuPont has used C8 for more than 50 years, most notably
in the production of Teflon.
For years, C8 — and DuPont’s emissions of it —
have been basically unregulated. But in the past few years, C8
has come under increasing scrutiny. Fueled in large part by internal
DuPont documents uncovered by lawyers for Wood County residents,
the EPA has begun a detailed review of the chemical and sued DuPont
for allegedly hiding information about C8’s dangers.
In February, a Wood County judge approved a $107.6 million settlement
of a lawsuit filed against DuPont on behalf of thousands of residents
whose drinking water was allegedly poisoned with C8.
Also in February, members of the EPA Science Advisory Board urged
the agency to elevate its cancer-causing classification for the
chemical and do an even more thorough review of the substance.
Based largely on documents from the residents’ lawyers,
the EPA in July 2004 filed a complaint against DuPont under the
federal Toxic Substances Control Act and the Resource Conservation
and Recovery Act.
In that complaint, the EPA alleged that DuPont had caused “widespread
contamination” of drinking water supplies near its Parkersburg
The EPA also alleged that this pollution has created a “substantial
risk of injury to the health or the environment.”
DuPont, the EPA alleged, never told the government the company
had water tests that showed C8 in residential supplies in concentrations
greater than the company’s own internal limit.
Also, the EPA alleged that DuPont withheld — for more than
20 years — the results of a test showing that at least one
pregnant worker from the Parkersburg plant had transferred the
chemical from her body to her fetus.
That information, the EPA said, supported animal tests showing
that C8 “moves across the placental barrier.” The
EPA said that agency efforts to understand C8’s health effects
“might have been more expeditious” if DuPont had submitted
the human test results in 1981.
Further, the EPA alleged that DuPont did not provide the EPA
with this information, even after the agency requested it under
the terms of the company’s hazardous-waste permit.
Two weeks ago, DuPont revealed that the company and the Bush
administration had agreed to settle those allegations.
DuPont told stockholders it had reached “an agreement in
principle” with EPA.
The company set aside $15 million to cover the deal, but EPA
officials said no penalty amount had yet been set.
Under federal law, DuPont could have faced civil fines of more
than $300 million for not reporting information that showed C8
posed “substantial risk of injury to health or the environment.”
In Thursday’s statement, DuPont general counsel Stacey
J. Mobley said the company would “be fully responsive”
to the subpoena.
“Consistent with our core values, DuPont is committed to
operate to the highest standards of ethical behavior and environmental
responsibility,” Mobley said.
Asked if DuPont believes any criminal violations have taken place
concerning C8, Webb said, “I’m not going to speculate
on any kind of outcome, [but] based on the information available
to us, we believe we have conducted our activities in an appropriate
To contact staff writer Ken Ward Jr., use e-mail or call 348-1702.