November 22, 2005
C8 and the Ohio EPA
By 10 Investigates Roger McCoy
The Ohio Environmental Protection
Agency's mission is to "Protect human health and the environment
through responsible regulation." Yet, for three years, the
Ohio EPA has hesitated to regulate perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)
contamination in the drinking water of thousands of Ohioans. 10
Investigates Roger McCoy found a growing number of people are
asking whom the state agency is protecting.
PFOA is commonly referred to as C8. The Ohio EPA
has not regulated C8 even as a $107-million class action settlement
prompted blood tests on thousands of Ohioans. Despite test results
that show many people have high levels of C8, Ohio's EPA has not
taken regulatory action on a chemical its known about for at least
The C8 is a waste by-product of Teflon manufactured
in DuPont's Washington, West Virginia plant.
DuPont's own documents from the class-action lawsuit
revealed that C8 has been drifting across the Ohio River since
the 1980's, seeping into the Little Hocking Water Association's
"Obviously there's a problem, and I think something
should have been done a long time ago," said Nicole Taggert.
Nicole and her family drank
the Little Hocking Water Association's contaminated water until
recently when DuPont agreed to supply water that was C8 free.
Even so, tests under the DuPont class action settlement found
high levels of C8 in Nicole and her family's blood.
"My little girl was 500
and mine was 700," said Taggert referring to how many parts
per billion of C8 were found in their blood.
The average American, by contrast,
has 5 parts per billion of C8 in their blood. The tests on Nicole,
her family and thousands of other southeast Ohioans found some
of the highest C8 levels on earth.
While several scientific studies debate C8's health
effects, most agree it's a concern. It accumulates in the blood
and even though DuPont has cut most of the C8 waste its West Virginia
plant generates, it takes years, in some cases decades, to leave
the human body.
This June, a US EPA Science Advisory Board draft
report on C8 tentatively described the chemical as a "likely
"Our contention has always been it (C8) doesn't
belong in the drinking water," said Robert Griffin, director
of the Little Hocking Water Association.
As a precaution, Griffin said the Ohio EPA should
have set drinking water standards for C8 three years ago when
it first learned of the DuPont contamination. "We've tried
to inform our customers, protect our customers," said Griffin.
"We could have used some more help."
Rather than set C8 limits, the Ohio EPA is monitoring
the contamination, advising people in southeast Ohio to drink
bottled water, and waiting for the US EPA to determine if C8 is
a human health concern. Minnesota, another state with C8 concerns,
has set drinking water limits for the chemical. Ohio's EPA says
it doesn't have the resources to determine if limits should be
placed on C8 which is why its relying on the US EPA.
"Their resources are, frankly, are far superior
than ours in determining what an appropriate and safe (C8) level
would be," said Ohio EPA director Joe Koncelik.
The attorney for the Little Hocking Water Associations
disagrees. He says the Ohio EPA has ignored its top priority.
"The Ohio citizen is what that Agency is there
for," said David Altman. "Not some company operating
across the river, or for that matter even in Ohio."
Ohio Citizen Action, a consumer advocacy group agrees
with Altman that the Ohio EPA should set C8 water standards.
"What is more important than the health and
the safety of the residents?" asks Simona Vaclavikova, Ohio
Citizen Action program director. "How can you justify spending
money on anything else."
Congressman Ted Strickland, whose district is affected
by the C8 contamination, says he is also disappointed with the
Ohio EPA's inaction.
"That's not reassuring and I don't think that's
the way it ought to be," said Strickland. The Lisbon democrat
said If the Ohio EPA won't act on C8, he will take action of his
own. "I think my responsibility, immediately, is to pressure
the US EPA to investigate and set a standard for this chemical,"
The US EPA Science Advisory Board should issue a
final report by the end of the year on C8's cancer-causing potential.
Earlier this year, US EPA brought administrative actions against
DuPont for failing to report information concerning C8 to the
Agency as required by section 8(e) of the Toxic Substances Control
Act. DuPont says its own C8 studies determined that the chemical
is not a health hazard. If independent tests find otherwise, DuPont
says it will cover the health care expenses for those exposed
to the chemical in southeast Ohio.
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