Complaints Pile up Against Du Pont Plant

     CHARLESTON, W. Va. (CN) – Thousands of lawsuits accusing a Du Pont plant of poisoning people for 50 years have been transferred to Federal Court from a West Virginia county court.
     The lawsuits, still being transferred out of Wood County Circuit Court, claim that Du Pont knew for decades that its Washington Works Plant in Parkersburg, W. Va., where it used chemicals to make Teflon, poisoned the air and water-and that Du Pont knew it but covered it up.
     The plaintiffs claim that the chemicals, C-8 (ammonium perfluorooctanoate) and perfluorooctanoic acid, gave their children birth defects, and caused sterility and other problems.
     Six water districts were affected – Little Hocking, the City of Belpre, Tuppers Plains, and the Village of Pomeroy, all in Ohio, and Lubeck Public Service District, and Mason County Public Service District, in West Virginia. Private wells also were affected.
     The plaintiffs claim the pollution began in the 1950s and continued for 50 years or more, and that Du Pont knew how dangerous the chemical was, but continued to release it into the air and water.
     Many complaints claim that a 1981 pregnancy study, which Du Pont conducted, indicated that two out of seven babies born to women who worked at the plant, and exposed to C-8 through manufacturing, gave birth to children with facial defects.
     The study indicated that the chemical could cross the placenta from the C-8-exposed mother to her child, according to one class action.
     Du Pont was well aware by then that the chemical was being released into the air near the plant, the complaints state.
     In 1982, Du Pont reported to the EPA that eye defects observed in its study were not caused by C-8 exposure, and fraudulently failed to disclose the findings from its 1981 study on pregnant women, the plaintiffs claim.
     By 1984, male workers at the plant complained that their wives were having difficulties conceiving, but Du Pont failed to investigate, according to the complaints.
     Also in 1984, Du Pont collected samples of tap water from area businesses and own homes, and concluded that C-8 had indeed contaminated the public water supply, the plaintiffs say.
     Du Pont called a meeting at its corporate headquarters in Wilmington, Del. to discuss the issues surrounding C-8. At the meeting, Du Pont executives allegedly decided that options eliminating C-8 at the plant would cost them $200 million a year in lost profits.
     By 1988, laboratory rats exposed to C-8 were shown to have increased rates of certain cancers, most notably testicular cancer. Despite these findings and others, Du Pont continued to use C-8 in its manufacturing throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s, the class claims.
     The plaintiffs claim that Du Pont actually increased its use of the chemical, and increased the amount of C-8 released into the atmosphere and water, by releasing the chemical directly into the Ohio River and into unlined hazardous waste landfills.
     By May of 2000, Du Pont’s supplier of C-8, 3M, decided to stop manufacturing and selling C-8 due to increased concern over its safety, so Du Pont began making its own C-8 at a plant in North Carolina, according to the lawsuits.
     In September 2001, after a farmer claimed in court that his cattle had been poisoned by river water, Du Pont’s in-house counsel on C-8 issues wrote: “I can’t blame people if they don’t want to drink our chemicals. The compound … is very persistent in the environment, and on top of that, loves to travel in water and if ingested or breathed wants to stay in the blood, the body thinks it is food, so pulls it from the intestine, the liver then dumps it back to the stomach because it can’t break it down, then the intestines puts it right back into the blood,” according to a 2005 settlement of the class action, Leach et al. c E.I. DuPont deNemours.
     One recent federal case, filed Sept. 18 in Charleston Federal Court, recapitulates these charges on behalf of a single plaintiff.

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