PFOA 2005
May 20, 2005. DuPont faces C8 criminal probe.
By Ken Ward Jr. The Charleston Gazette.

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The Charleston Gazette (West Virginia)

May 20 2005

DuPont faces C8 criminal probe

Department of Justice demands company turn over documents

By Ken Ward Jr.
Staff writer

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 plant.
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 way.”

To contact staff writer Ken Ward Jr., use e-mail or call 348-1702.

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