August 12, 2005
The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)
DuPont C8 Tests OK With EPA
State agency is not concerned that federal EPA suspects company
might be withholding data
By Spencer Hunt
The Ohio EPA said it trusted DuPont to test air and water for
C8 contamination near its Circleville plant and to tell the public
about the results.
More than a year later, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency
has not received some of the results. And DuPont waited nine months
before it told a group of local officials and residents that perfluorooctanoic
acid, or C8, was not a problem there.
The testing and what followed occurred at the same time DuPont
faces U.S. EPA accusations of illegally withholding information
about the possible health risks of C8, a chemical the company
uses to make Teflon.
John Millett, a U.S. EPA spokesman, said the agency conducts
its own laboratory tests on C8 as part of its studies.
"It's naive to allow the polluter to tell the authorities
how much he's polluting," said Lauren Sucher, spokeswoman
for the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy group based in
Washington. "How does that make sense for public health?"
DuPont and Ohio EPA officials said the test results are accurate.
"We have high confidence in the testing procedures DuPont
has used," said Todd Kelleher, a supervisor in the Ohio EPA's
drinking water division.
DuPont faces two federal investigations that began after C8 was
discovered in drinking water of 10 Ohio and West Virginia communities
around the company's Washington Works plant near Parkersburg,
DuPont was served with a federal subpoena in May that demanded
documents and studies of C8. The company faces hundreds of millions
of dollars in potential U.S. EPA fines.
Last year, DuPont agreed to pay as much as $343 million to settle
a class-action lawsuit by residents in West Virginia and Ohio.
About $70 million is being spent on a study of C8's health effects
on as many as 80,000 people who drank the water contaminated by
the Washington Works.
Studies have linked C8 to liver damage and cancer in lab animals.
In June, a panel of U.S. EPA scientists called it a "likely"
cancer risk for people.
Records and interviews show DuPont tested water at the Circleville
Works plant, at drinking water wells in Pickaway and Ross counties,
and in the Scioto River between July 2004 and July 2005.
DuPont tests of wastewater taken from a
drainage ditch that runs into the Scioto River show C8 at levels
between 8.1 parts per billion and 9.8 parts per billion. Those
levels are higher than C8 found in three wells the Little Hocking
Water Association uses for drinking water in southeastern Ohio.
Tests of Scioto River water and wells used by the Earnhart Hills
Regional Water and Sewer District and the Ross County Water Co.
found no detectable levels of C8, according to DuPont.
DuPont also estimates that its Circleville
plant releases 158 pounds of C8 into the air each year,
said Bill Spires, a manager in the Ohio EPA's air division.
Spires and Kelleher said they believe C8 does not pose a health
risk at air levels DuPont has measured.
Kelleher said the Ohio EPA ran its own tests of C8 in southeastern
Ohio drinking water in April 2002 to check DuPont's results.
A copy of the test results show DuPont found higher levels of
the chemical in six wells.
DuPont uses a private lab, Exygen, for
its tests. The state used a U.S. EPA lab in Colorado.
Where air issues are concerned, Spires said the Ohio EPA is still
waiting to see DuPont's data. Company officials
said they forgot to send the data when asked before but
they would send it soon.
Simona Vaclavikova, program director for the advocacy group Ohio
Citizen Action, said the Ohio EPA should have been involved in
the entire testing process.
"Why should we trust DuPont to do all these tests?"
Ricky Seymour, 45, once worked on a farm near the Circleville
Works, and his son was a DuPont security guard. He said he and
others should have been told about concerns over C8 in the area.
"This is serious," Seymour said yesterday at a corner
restaurant in Circleville. "The EPA's supposed to be an environmental
protection agency, not hush-hush."
Dispatch reporter Kristy Eckert contributed to this story.