May 28, 2005
Charleston Gazette (West Virginia)
Board wants more review of DEP's C8 deal
By Ken Ward Jr.
State Environmental Quality Board members declined Friday to
immediately approve a settlement that rewrites permits for a toxic
waste dump at DuPont Co.'s Wood County plant.
Board members said that they wanted more information about the
deal, and asked their lawyer to review the details.
"I'd like to have some more time to digest this," said
Ed Snyder, the board chairman.
The settlement would resolve DuPont's appeal of the Department
of Environmental Protection's renewal of water pollution and waste
management permits for the company's Dry Run landfill.
In early March, DEP renewed the permits and added several provisions
meant to tighten oversight of the dump's discharge of the toxic
The settlement would weaken those provisions
and eliminate at least one of them: A limit on the landfill discharge's
toxic effects on aquatic life.
Wendy Radcliff, the board's lawyer, suggested that the public
should get a chance to comment on permit changes made by the settlement.
"There has been a heightened public concern and awareness
of this permit," Radcliff said.
Since 1951, DuPont has used C8, or ammonium perfluorooctanoate,
at its Washington Works plant south of Parkersburg. DuPont uses
C8 to make its popular Teflon products, and to make other similar
nonstick products it sells to other manufacturers of consumer
Fueled in large part by internal DuPont documents uncovered by
lawyers for Wood County residents, the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency has begun a detailed study of the chemical and sued DuPont
for allegedly hiding information about C8's dangers.
In its lawsuit last July, EPA alleged that
DuPont had caused "widespread contamination" and created
a "substantial risk of injury to health or the environment."
Earlier this month, DuPont said that it had reached a settlement
with EPA of that lawsuit. Details have not been made public.
DuPont has also agreed to pay at least $ 107.6 million to settle
a lawsuit filed against the company by thousands of residents
whose drinking water was poisoned with C8.
The 17-acre Dry Run dump, about four miles
southwest of the community of Lubeck, remains at the center of
the C8 controversy.
Since the dump was opened in 1984, DuPont has disposed of large
amounts of C8-contaminated wastes in the Dry Run facility.
By April 1990, DuPont tests confirmed that
C8 was leaching from the landfill into Dry Run Creek at concentrations
as high as 1.6 parts per million -- more than 100 times the company's
own limit for C8 in water.
In August 2001, the company settled out of court a lawsuit brought
by Wilbur and Sandra Tennant, Dry Run landfill neighbors who said
that C8 pollution killed their cattle and made their family sick.
The most recent data on file with DEP shows
C8 concentrations of more than 80 parts per billion.
That's far more than the 1-part-per-billion company limit that
DuPont set years ago for drinking water.
But, it is far less than the 150 parts per billion that DEP in
2001 agreed to as a "screening level" for whether DuPont
must replace local drinking water supplies.
In a 2002 study, the Washington-based Environmental Working Group
reported that DEP's 150-part-per-billion number was "seriously
flawed" and greatly underestimated C8's dangers. The group
says that studies show C8 is linked to heart attacks, breast cancer,
testicular cancer and other ailments.
The latest DEP permits do not limit the
amount of C8 that DuPont can discharge from the landfill.
But, after being urged by area residents to limit the discharges,
DEP added language to govern the conditions under which the agency
might eventually restrict C8 emissions.
DuPont appealed those additions to the permit, and the board
was scheduled to hold an appeal hearing Friday in Charleston.
At a Friday board meeting, DuPont lawyer Ann Bradley said that
DuPont appealed the DEP permits because the company was upset
that it did not have an opportunity to comment on the provisions
"DuPont felt some clarification was needed," Bradley
Amanda Waters, a lawyer for the DEP Division of Water and Waste
Management, said that the settlement made only minor changes in
"The language was changed only slightly from what was in
the final permit," Waters said.
Bradley and Waters both said that the settlement ensures a more
stringent permit than the one that DEP previously published for
But under the deal, worked out privately between DuPont and DEP,
several provisions added by the state after the public comment
period would be weakened: A numeric limit on test results that
estimate toxicity to aquatic life would be removed. Instead, DuPont
would conduct those tests for informational purposes.
If four consecutive semi-annual tests showed
no adverse effects on aquatic life, the company could petition
DEP to eliminate the testing requirement. The deal allows that
to be a minor permit change that would not be subject to public
Bradley said that the testing "was just a step to confirm
the findings of the past that there was no toxicity to aquatic
Waters agreed that previous tests gave "no indication there
are any problems here." Rather than spelling out specific
steps DuPont must take to mitigate C8 pollution from part of the
landfill, the settlement gives the company broad leeway in how
it handles the clean up. Added to a list of requirements is the
phrase, "other options for mitigation may be evaluated and
proposed." It makes unclear the question of at what point
DuPont must have a C8 discharge limit imposed on the landfill.
Initially, DEP required DuPont to modify its permit -- to limit
C8 discharges -- whenever federal regulators finalize a "risk
assessment" study of the chemical.
Under the settlement, DuPont would not have to do so until the
EPA issues a "reference dose/screening level" for C8.
Bradley indicated that the change essentially implements DuPont's
position that an actual regulatory limit -- as opposed to guidelines
from a scientific study -- must be in place before DEP could limit
"When this is developed as a regulatory standard, it would
be incorporated into the permit," Bradley said.