Court records uncovered last week show DuPont regularly reviewed and edited West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection media releases concerning C8, which has area residents concerned about what else the company might be trying to keep from the pubic.
C8, also known as ammonium perfluorooctanoate, has been used by DuPont since 1951 at its Washington Works plant near Parkersburg. The chemical taints several area water districts and it was recently reported that the chemical is a likely carcinogenic to humans.
The news comes after DuPont is already facing millions in fines from the EPA for failing to report information about the chemical for more than 20 years.
The Little Hocking Water Association is one of the water districts where C8 can be found. About 12,000 customers are served by the water association, which has the highest concentrations of C8 contamination of any public water supply in the United States.
It makes me wonder what else is there that we don't know yet, said Robert Griffin, general manager of the water association. Ive tried to get more information about other C8 related materials from the company and it has been very slow like molasses in getting information from them. We still don't know what other C8-related chemicals might be out there yet.
According to the Charleston Gazette, West Virginia state environmental regulators planned to warn area residents that C8 was spread through several pathways, including by air, in March 2002.
But before the public was notified, the DEP squashed the news release after complaints from a DuPont lawyer, according to the Gazette.
It is increasingly likely that the chemical is being spread in several ways in groundwater, in the soil and now by air, said the draft news release written by then-DEP spokesman Andy Gallagher, the Gazette reported.
Griffin called the report alarming.
I read that, and it was hard to believe. I was shocked and outraged, Griffin said. The public has a right to know what is going on. Sometimes we suspect things like that happen but to see graphic evidence like that just makes you wonder what else we don't know.
DuPont officials maintain the chemical is not harmful to humans. The chemical is used in the production of Teflon, which is found in hundreds of consumer products including fabrics and non-stick cookware.
Tim McDaniel, DuPont Washington Works site safety, health and environmental manager, said the company was asked by DEP officials to check information.
In general, as a company, we have a policy of not attempting to edit any government documents, McDaniel said. But, if we are asked to go along with fact checking we will do so if requested.
According to the Gazette, Dee Ann Staats, a toxicologist hired as the DEPs science adviser, insisted that DuPont review, edit and approve all C8 related statements issued by the state.
Staats was also accused in 2002 of destroying notes, correspondence and other C8-related documents so they could not be used in civil suits.
According to the DEP, DuPont no longer edits releases.
Veto resident Kim Harlow, 32, said she is more concerned than ever about C8.
After hearing what has been going on it makes you think they aren't telling you the full story, Harlow said.
Griffin said it wasn't until late 2002 that he learned that one of the pathways for C8 was by air.
Since then, Griffin said DuPont has claimed to reduce C8 air emissions.
Griffin said he remains deeply concerned by recent findings by an EPA science advisory board that C8 is a likely carcinogenic to humans.
He said DuPont should be required to not only take immediate action of an interim nature, but also to give prompt attention to permanent solutions to C8 being detected in the water districts wells.
The company has agreed to install filters to the water associations lines. Those filters are expected to remove all traces of the chemical, but are several months from being installed.
Griffin said the district was not a member of a class-action suit that was recently settled and is free to seek a more complete solution if a permanent preventative measure is not taken.
As part of the class action suit, as many as 80,000 area residents could participate in health screenings. Four public meetings will be held next week to tell residents how the screenings will be conducted.
The collection of personal health histories and blood samples will begin this month for residents who receive their drinking water from six public water districts, or from private wells within the districts, where concentrations of ammonium perfluorooctanoate, or C8, have been found..The goal is to complete the collection process in a year.