(Here's the full version of the story from the Marietta Register:)
DuPont will pay a $1.6 million civil administrative penalty over environmental violations, including the spilling of hundreds of pounds of C8 into the Ohio River, according to an agreement with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.
While the company has been vigorously reducing emissions of the controversial manufacturing substance, DuPont Washington Works experienced discharges from 2004 to 2008 that caused C8 (also known as PFOA or perfluorooctanoic acid) to be spilled directly into the river. The company has entered into an agreement with US Environmental Protection Agency over the voluntary phase out of PFOA in consumer products and industrial emissions by 2015. DuPont has made significant strides in controlling releases of C8 from the plant with the installation of specially designed scrubbers, which are credited with reducing air emissions 99 percent since 2002. The company says water emissions have also been decreased by 97 percent. And, for those public water systems with the highest levels of exposure, DuPont has constructed carbon filtration systems to reduce C8 in drinking water.
So, local consumers may be surprised to learn the details behind the WVDEP consent order, which reveals that as recently as January 27, 2008 the company spilled 178 pounds of C8 into the river.
On May 16, 2006, about 66.7 pounds of C8 was leaked into the river along with 2,487 pounds of FEP or fluorinated ethylene propylene, a liquid derivative of Teflon used in applications for flexible products like tubing, plastic sheeting, and o-rings.
On August 2, 2005, an employee error in the Teflon PFA area resulted in a discharge of between 100 to 200 pounds of PFA fluff into the river. PFA is afluoropolymer resin.
On April 7, 2004, DuPont reported a spill of an unspecified amount of Teflon into the Ohio River.
But, PFOA wasn’t the only potentially hazardous substance released in violation of DuPont’s operating permits. Of the other six spills cited in the administrative order, two involved releases of toluene, one involved aluminum stearate, one involved Amberlite resin, another involved the leaking of 4,700 gallons of methanol, and the largest on January 9, 2008, spilled “several thousand pounds” of sodium sulfite, sodium iodide, and sodium chloride into the Ohio River.
WVDEP found that the local plant violated the Water Pollution Control Act and the Solid Waste Management Act. The infractions cited in the administrative consent order involve incidents at DuPont Washington Works and two closed landfills from 2004 to July 2008.
DuPont is required to immediately report any spills to the agency by means of a designated spill hotline, but in at least one case the WVDEP order claims the company failed to do so. In other instances, WVDEP says spills were reported, but still resulted in violations because the company is prohibited from releasing “unpermitted pollutants” into state waters. C8 is classified as such because it remains an unregulated chemical while the EPA continues its risk assessment. Of the $1.6 million fine, DuPont will spend $500,000 on supplemental environmental projects to be completed over the next three years to benefit the community. The rest will go to the state’s Water Quality Management Fund.
DuPont officials say they welcome the opportunity to use a portion of the penalty to fund projects for the community.
“DuPont takes this matter very seriously and has been fully cooperative with the agency throughout this process,” company officials said in a statement. “We are committed to continuously improving our environmental performance. During the past five years, we have conducted numerous evaluations, assessments, studies and have made substantial investments in performance and facility improvement projects aimed at environmental compliance and optimizing our operations.”
The information about the recent C8 spills comes on the heels of advice from the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry, which indicated that vulnerable populations should take all reasonable precautions to reduce C8 exposure. In the strongest statement yet on the topic, the ATSDR recommendsthat parents and caregivers who live in the Parkersburg area use only premixed baby formula so as not to mix powdered formula with PFOA contaminated water.
Eric Bumgardner of the Parkersburg Utility Board explained that the city is not obligated to sample its water for C8, but quantifiable levels have been detected in three of the city’s wells so voluntary sampling is performed periodically.
“We have no requirement to sample,” Bumgardner said. “We don’t have a specific schedule.”
Bumgardner said the city tests the water once or twice a year. The last sampling of Parkersburg’s wells took place on December 29, 2008. Finished water was not sampled at that time, but the well with the highest concentration contained levels of 0.073 parts per billion.
In the final days of the Bush administration, the EPA established its first provisional health advisory for C8 at 0.4 parts per billion and in March it was formally adopted. But, the Environmental Working Group, a Washington DC-based science and advocacy coalition, says the EPA’s new action level for drinking water, which is based on short-term consumption, still leaves thousands of area residents chronically exposed to an unacceptable risk of toxic hazards.
A University of Pennsylvania study performed by Dr. Edward Emmett indicates that people who were drinking local water contaminated with C8 had an average of 106 times as much C8 in their blood as was present in the water they were consuming.
So far, New Jersey is the state with the most restrictive rules for C8 in drinking water with a health-based guidance level of 0.04 parts per billion based on a lifetime or 70 years of exposure.
C8 is already present at low levels in the blood of nearly everyone in the U.S. The manmade substance has been shown to cause a number of health issues, including cancer, developmental and reproductive problems in laboratory animals. Scientists all over the world are exploring its potential impacts on human health.
DuPont claims, “Evidence from 50 years of experience and extensive scientific studies supports the conclusion that PFOA does not cause adverse human health effects.”