A coalition of public interest and environmental organizations is calling for an investigation into how C8, a likely human carcinogen manufactured by the DuPont Co., contaminated groundwater wells and surface waters in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
The DuPont Co. discovered in January 2003 that the controversial chemical C8, used to make Teflon and other widely used consumer products, has been found in groundwater wells at its Fayetteville Works facility, and was present in discharges to the Cape Fear River. C8 is the same chemical that contaminated public water supplies in West Virginia and led to a class-action lawsuit involving more than 50,000 people.
Though the company knew about the contamination in Fayetteville for several years, North Carolinians did not learn of the C8 found in ground and surface water until a United Steelworkers (USW) investigation into the discharges surfaced in May. And despite the discovery, the DuPont Co. was allowed to conduct its own monitoring of the discharges – with no oversight from state or federal officials.
As a result, several of North Carolina’s leading public interest organizations – including Clean Water for North Carolina, the Waterkeeper Alliance, the North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Project, and Cape Fear River Watch Inc. – formed “The North Carolina C8 Working Group” to ask state Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR) officials to act quickly to address public health and safety concerns.
“The delay in taking action is outrageous. C8 is a dangerous chemical – under no circumstances should it have been discharged to the river,” said Rick Dove, the Waterkeeper Alliance’s southeastern representative. “The Waterkeeper Alliance will consider taking whatever action is necessary if the state and DuPont fail to immediately disclose and mediate the C8 contamination.”
“Failure to protect the public and worker health is what results when we allow companies to carry out voluntary investigations and reporting, rather than holding them publicly accountable, with oversight from environmental and occupational safety officials,” said Hope Taylor-Guevara, executive director of Clean Water for N.C.
DuPont’s Fayetteville facility is the only plant in the country that manufactures C8, which is also known as ammonium perfluorooctanoate (APFO) or PFOA. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Scientific Advisory Board recently identified the chemical as “a likely human carcinogen.”
A year ago, the federal government began investigating allegations the company knew of and concealed information about the potential harmful effects of C8 for years.
In 2004, DuPont settled a West Virginia lawsuit for up to $342 million in C8 cleanup and monitoring costs. That case was brought by 50,000 residents whose drinking water was contaminated with C8. Lawyers involved in the West Virginia suit were recently named 2005 Trial Lawyers of the Year by Trial Lawyers for Public Justice (TLPJ).
Amy Kaufman, executive director of the North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Project, said a federal regulatory agency should undertake a formal health evaluation of the plant’s C8 workplace.
“DuPont has done a great injustice to workers at this plant. The Fayetteville plant should open its doors to an independent health hazard evaluation in order to both fully understand the facilities occupational environment and to address the potential effect on the health of its workers,” Kaufman said.
In Fayetteville, some DuPont employees participate in a voluntary blood monitoring program. The C8 Working Group has learned that the chemical has been measured in the blood of some employees at levels as high as 2,000 parts- per-billion.(5) That is thousands of times higher than that “Community Exposure Guidelines” level of one part per-billion originally established by DuPont.
“DuPont is violating almost every aspect of its own “Biopersistent Materials” policy, from the handling of toxic manufacturing materials to open communication about this toxic and everlasting compound, C8, in ground and surface water, and the blood of its workers,” said Taylor-Guevara.