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Monday, December 11, 2006

Teflon in Drinking (Tap) Water

Another reason to be very careful what you use
tap water for. Much of what the EPA regulates
and action taken to fix problems or adjust "safe"
levels of contamination in water is done after
people have been exposed to it or used the water
for many years.


November 21, 2006

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - DuPont Co. agreed Tuesday to a tougher, temporary standard for a chemical used to make Teflon and said it would test more drinking-water supplies for contamination near its Washington Works plant along the Ohio River.

If levels for ammonium perfluorooctaonate, also known as C8 or PFOA, exceed the new threshold - now 300 times stricter - DuPont would be required to filter the water or provide residents with an alternative supply, according to a consent agreement between the company and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The agreement replaces one signed in March 2002 that required DuPont to take similar actions if C8 levels exceeded 150 parts per billion. The new agreement cuts the level to 0.50 ppb.

EPA Region 3 Administrator Don Welsh said the new standard was motivated, in part, by preliminary results of a health screening that showed Ohio and West Virginia residents living near the plant, which is near Parkersburg, have 25 times more of the chemical in their blood than the average population.

The stricter standard will reduce exposure while EPA continues studies on whether the unregulated chemical is hazardous to human health. Studies indicate the chemical can cause developmental problems in animals, Welsh said.

C8 is used to produce the nonstick substance Teflon and a variety of other products, from flooring to clothing. Though used since World War II, its long-term health impact on humans is unknown. DuPont has long maintained there are no harmful effects.

DuPont is paying for the health screening of 70,000 residents as part of a 2004 settlement of a class-action lawsuit by residents of six Ohio and West Virginia water districts who claimed C8 contaminated their water supplies.

Attorney Harry Deitzler, who represented the residents, said the latest agreement vindicates their concerns but would have "zero impact for DuPont because it's what they are already doing."

Under the court-approved settlement, DuPont agreed to install carbon filtration systems in the six water districts, three of which have been installed at treatment plants in Ohio.

Work has yet to start at treatment plants in Lubeck and Mason County in West Virginia, or at the Little Hocking Water Association in Ohio.

Little Hocking customers, who have the highest concentrations of C8, are receiving bottled water from DuPont.

Company spokesman David Boothe said the new agreement requires DuPont to survey additional areas near the plant to determine C8 levels. The surveys will not include Parkersburg's water supply, where a separate lawsuit alleging contamination has been filed in Wood County Circuit Court.

Boothe said EPA will tell DuPont where to conduct the surveys, but he anticipates the targeting of private wells in Little Hocking and Belpre, Ohio.

An EPA spokeswoman said the 2002 agreement targeted water districts within a 2-mile radius of the Washington Works plant. The new agreement will look farther.

DuPont officials have said they will continue to use C8 in manufacturing, though the company has cut emissions at Washington Works and other U.S. plants by 97 percent since 2000.

EPA's Welsh said DuPont and other companies that use the chemical have agreed to cut emissions by 95 percent in 2010 and stop using C8 by 2015.


On the Web:

EPA-DuPont consent agreement: http://www.epa.gov/region03/enforcement/dupont-order.pdf

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