Porter Ranch Gas Leak With Attorney Robert F. Kennedy

KTLA

BY NANCY CRUZ

Environmental Attorney Robert F. Kennedy is the founding partner of Kennedy & Madonna LLP.  He joined us to talk about the legal liabilities and pollution problems in the Porter Ranch Gas Leak case.  He discussed: Porter Ranch - Big Picture; Safety Concerns; Regulatory Agencies; and Long-term assurances are needed about what's underground.

Consortium of law firms including Kennedy & Madonna, Panish Shea & Boyle, Morgan & Morgan and the R. Rex Parris law firm are working in the best interest of Porter Ranch residents affected by the SoCalGas well blowout.

www.porterranchlawsuit.com

L.A. County declares state of emergency over Porter Ranch gas leak

Los Angeles Daily News
By Gregory J. Wilcox

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday declared a state of emergency over a Southern California Gas Co. leaking well site above Porter Ranch that has pumped up to 1,200 tons of methane into the atmosphere.

The county declaration, proposed by Supervisor Michael Antonovich, whose district includes the massive Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility, paves the way for state and federal assistance and was approved unanimously.

“This action will seek state and federal assistance for our residents in the Porter Ranch area with additional air monitoring and help with efforts to cap the well,” Antonovich said in a statement. “The residents ... have suffered for more than 50 days since the gas leak was discovered.”

The supervisor noted that 88 air purifiers have been installed in the community and 275 have been scheduled for installation in the area.

“While the gas company is working to address the leak, we still do not have a clear timeline as to when this crisis will be resolved. While county agencies have been monitoring the gas leak to assess the public health threat, we have called on the governor and state agencies including the Public Utilities Commission and the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources for assistance,” Antonovich said.

COUNCIL DECLARATION

The Los Angeles City Council also approved four emergency motions related to the leak that were submitted by Councilman Mitchell Englander, chairman of the Public Safety Committee. One of those motions called for the council to support the supervisors’ action.

The motions also dealt with the gas company’s relocation efforts, residential tax relief and business tax relief.

“Due to the mass relocation of residents, short-term health effects experienced and the poor air quality in the vicinity of the gas leak, compounded by the uncertainty as to when a solution will be reached, it is imperative that the governor step in and declare a local emergency so this community can receive the resources it needs,” Englander said in a statement.

RELOCATION RELIEF

His motion regarding the company’s relocation efforts consists of 13 actions.

They include:

• Incentives to landlords to enter into short-term leases, including premiums, if necessary to provide comparable housing.

• Immediate cash compensation for those who cannot be immediately moved, upon request, to comparable housing.

• Provision of out-of-pocket health-related costs to relocated residents or those declining relocation to assess current or ongoing health effects.

• Providing moving companies to help relocate residents.

• Private security patrols 24/7 for vacant residences so as not to put an undue burden on Los Angeles Police Department.

• Provision of maintenance and landscaping services for vacated properties.

• Monetary consideration and accommodation for residents who receive assisted nursing services in their homes.

• The cessation of billing all residents in the affected area for natural gas services until the leak is fixed.

Englander is also asking the Los Angeles County Tax Assessor to make available a program that provides property tax relief that is normally available if a property is damaged or destroyed by a calamity.

“We sincerely regret this, and alongside our work to stop the leak, we are redoubling our efforts to alleviate the concerns about the leak’s impact on the community and the environment,” the gas company said in a statement. “Along with trying to reduce the level of emission, we have established three programs for residents to participate in.

“We are aware the City Council has asked that additional ideas be considered to be included in this package. We will review these options and work with the mayor and council as we have with other issues.”

Earlier Tuesday, the company announced that it would open a Community Resource Center today at 19731 Rinaldi St., just south of Ralphs in the Porter Ranch Town Center.

It will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. The center will offer guidance on the relocation process, how to file a claim, and how to get free home air filtration and weather stripping to reduce odor.

It also said that as of the end of business Monday, it placed 1,675 households in temporary accommodations. There are 1,217 households in various stages of making arrangements and the company is in process of getting in touch with 473 households.

http://www.dailynews.com/environment-and-nature/20151215/la-county-declares-state-of-emergency-over-porter-ranch-gas-leak

L.A. County proclaims local emergency over gas leak near Porter Ranch

Los Angeles Times
By Abby Sewell

Los Angeles County supervisors on Tuesday proclaimed a state of local emergency over a gas leak at a storage facility in Aliso Canyon that has sickened residents of nearby Porter Ranch.

An underground storage well at the facility began leaking Oct. 23 and has since been emitting fumes and a sulfur-like smell that county health officials said could be causing the health problems nearby residents have reported, including nausea, headaches and vomiting.

Southern California Gas Co., which owns the facility, has paid to temporarily relocate 1,675 people who live near the facility, under orders by the county, and has installed air purification systems and other mitigation measures in 90 homes.

Crews are drilling a relief well to permanently seal off the leaking well, but the company has said a final solution to the problem is probably months away. 

County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, who represents the area, called for the emergency proclamation, saying it is necessary because of the "increasing number of concerned and displaced residents, health concerns in the community and the uncertainty of when the well will be capped."

The supervisors unanimously ratified the declaration Tuesday. Declaring a local emergency is a first step for getting increased state and federal aid.

At least one Porter Ranch homeowner objected to the action, however.

"This is not a natural disaster," resident Isabel Loriente said. "In fact, it shifts the financial burden from those who should be responsible onto the taxpayers."

The gas leak has sparked multiple lawsuits and a flurry of actions by city and county officials.

Last week, Antonovich wrote a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown calling on the state to take "immediate action," including a moratorium on activity at the storage facility. He said the county would pursue legislation that would allow local governments, rather than the state, to regulate such facilities and give their own environmental clearances.

In the letter, he also suggested the state should look into closing the Aliso Canyon facility permanently and should analyze the potential repercussions to the region and ratepayers.

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-porter-ranch-emergency-20151214-story.html

Porter Ranch Gas Leak Compared to BP Oil Spill

Lawyers and Settlements
By Gordon Gibb

Lost in the headlines over the Porter Ranch SoCal Gas Leak disaster is the impact to the Porter Ranch business community. As residents enter the high point of the Yuletide shopping season, buying gifts and holiday supplies for Christmas is the last thing on the minds of residents, many of whom have already been relocated to temporary accommodations while Southern California Gas (SoCalGas) and its partners attempt to plug the leak.

There will likely be many more relocations to come, given the estimate that successfully capping the leak could take months. And while residents can be relocated temporarily, most businesses can’t. Thus, neighboring businesses are left with no other option but to wait it out, hoping that any dip in their revenues stemming from lost Yuletide sales and continuing business in the New Year will not put them under.

In the meantime, the residents and the business community of Porter Ranch have already had their Thanksgiving observances affected, and now are looking at a similarly negative impact on Christmas and other holiday celebrations, now just days away. And all because of this:

The video was shot with a highly specialized Optical Gas Imaging camera. It shows a time-lapse image of the Porter Ranch SoCal Gas Leak disaster. This has been going on since at least October 23, when the breach was first discovered. Almost two months in, officials suggest it could take a similar amount of time or longer to reach the compromised underground well and cap it.

So far there doesn’t appear to be any definitive statements forthcoming from neighboring Chambers of Commerce or business advocacy groups. However, various statements and hyperbole in relation to the emergence of a Porter Ranch lawsuit includes Porter Ranch businesses when referencing Porter Ranch residents and the impact the gas leak is having.

That impact is significant, with many comparing this crisis to the BP offshore oil spill of five years ago. And while various pundits have noted that a gas leak is not as “dirty” as an oil spill in terms of obvious impact to the environment aesthetic, the damage, both short- and long-term, has the potential to be serious, albeit invisible.

A Bloomberg report carried in Washington Post Business (12/7/15) noted that amounts of natural gas spewing into the atmosphere resulting from the Porter Ranch SoCal Gas Leak disaster could equate to the emissions and greenhouse gasses of a half-million vehicles.

To review, the massive gas leak stemming from an underground storage well was first discovered October 23. SoCalGas and its partners attempted to force liquids and various chemicals into the breach in similar fashion to attempts at stemming the offshore BP oil spill. In both cases, they were unsuccessful.

The current strategy, also akin to how the massive BP oil spill was finally contained, is to bore another access point to the underground well, connect to it, and intercept the damaged well.

That could take months.

Natural gas is normally odorless, as well as colorless (although escaping gas can be seen with an infrared camera, as the video above shows). In order to aid in leak detection, mercaptan is routinely added to natural gas in order to give it the trademark “rotten egg” smell. While this can be an important advantage to technicians for leak detection, having to deal with the smell long-term has been more than residents of Porter Ranch can bear.

Many families have been relocated already. Reports abound that many more families are requesting relocation, given the expected time frame to plug the leak.

For many families, the smell cast a pall over their Thanksgiving celebrations. It now threatens Christmas - and Porter Ranch businesses share in the loss. In addition to those families having relocated thus far, reports suggest upwards of 1,700 families have or intend to request relocation assistance.

Bloomberg notes as much as 60,000 kilograms of natural gas is escaping from the breach every hour. That translates to almost a million tons of greenhouse gasses that have already escaped into the air above the Aliso Canyon, located about 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles. The California Air Resources Board has estimated the Porter Ranch SoCal Gas Leak disaster is large enough to increase California’s output of methane - a potent greenhouse gas - by 25 percent.

The short-term effects of exposure to the gas and the rotten egg smell has been, for many, headaches, nausea and nosebleeds.

Long-term health effects are another matter. According to a news report carried by KNX1070 Newsradio, CBS 2 and KCAL 9Los Angeles (12/11/15), a memo issued to Los Angeles County supervisors by a spokesperson for the state Department of Public Health contained this statement: “As the duration of exposure increases, these trace levels can produce significant long-term health effects.”

To that end, Dr. Cyrus Rangan, Director of Toxicology and Assessment for the county of Los Angeles, weighed in for viewers yesterday (December 11).

“I think what we’re viewing here is an ever-evolving situation,” he told reporters during an on-camera interview. “We have, at the beginning of the situation, a gas leak where we were given the impression that it might be fixed in a few days, maybe a week. At that time we had assurance that people would not incur any long-term health risks from this. But as the situation has evolved, we’re in our seventh week now, it gave us pause to say, now we really need to look at all the chemicals of concern that may cause long-term health risks. Fortunately, all the readings that we have so far indicate that we are still not at the risk of long-term health effects or permanent health problems from this exposure. But we need to monitor this stuff every day because it is an ever-evolving situation.”

Then there is the issue of radon, a naturally occurring byproduct of uranium that normally remains trapped in the ground. But as SoCalGas and its partners bore into the ground in an attempt to stem a leak that is unleashing a constant cloud of gas into the atmosphere, radon has crept into the conversation.

Exposure to radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer, next to smoking.

So far, the concern at the moment is confined to the workers actively toiling at the site, Rangan said.

“But exposure to radon remains a theoretical possibility,” Dr. Rangan said, “and when you’re addressing a problem that might be several hundred or even several thousand feet deep, you might generate what are called preferential pathways for something like radon, beneath the Earth’s surface, to make its way up to the surface. So primarily our concern about radon is from the worker’s exposure, for the people actually doing the repair job. If we find radon there, we can address the situation. And if radon does exist in the work site then we may need to have to look at the residential community and monitor for it there, too.”

Interviewers asked the doctor what he would do, personally, if his family was being affected by the Porter Ranch SoCal Gas Leak disaster.

 

 

READ MORE PORTER RANCH GAS LEAK LEGAL NEWS

“I think the message here is; if you are living in that area and you are not smelling anything, by all means, stay in your house. And I would do the same. If you smell something and you are not having symptoms, or you can tolerate the mild symptoms you do have, by all means, stay in your house. But, if you are smelling stuff, and you are experiencing symptoms and you find those symptoms to be unbearable, whether it’s for you or your children, or anyone else in your family, then by all means relocate until the situation has been resolved.”

As residents and business owners alike struggle with the short-term crisis at hand, the long-term impact on health and the overall environment has yet to be determined.

In the meantime, the emergence of a Porter Ranch Gas leak lawsuit is indicative of a growing sense of loss and anger.

https://www.lawyersandsettlements.com/articles/porter-ranch-socal-gas-leak/porter-ranch-lawsuit-gas-leak-21118.html#.VnL45d-rRsN

A question for Paris talks: Is there coal in your stocking this Christmas?

Pasadena Star-News
By Steve Scauzillo, San Gabriel Valley Tribune

 

None of you has been naughty this Christmas, so I can rest assured Santa won’t be leaving a lump of coal in your stocking.

Speaking of carbon-based materials, Christmas came early this year.

The Global Carbon Project announced last week that the world’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are down for the first time despite a growing global economy. Unlike in past years when emissions of the greenhouse gas increased 2-3 percent, researchers expect a drop of 1.6 percent by the end of 2015.

They attribute the drop to a slowing economy in China, the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter. So, the good news might not stick around next year, as long as global economies rely on the burning of fossil fuels that produce this invisible menace, which has led to climate change.

This was a bit of good news for the nations gathering in Paris for talks on climate change. The goal is to keep the temperature rising no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. But some island nations want a tougher limit, because resulting rising sea levels will put them underwater literally.

While the talk from Paris about global climate change’s relationship to the spread of terrorism and the flow of refugees fleeing humongous typhoons, hurricanes or droughts may be less than certain, there was no doubting what fossil fuels, especially coal, are doing to the air the Chinese breathe every day.

Even with a slower economy, Beijing experienced more than three straight days of dangerous smog this month. The authorities issued some of the highest warnings, closing schools in the capital and placing restrictions on nearby factories.

Here’s how bad their air got: The levels of PM2.5 particles (smaller than 2.5 microns) that slip past the human defenses and lodge in the lungs reached 300 micrograms. The safe level for PM2.5 is 25 micrograms.

Hence, China plans on cutting output of coal-burning plants. But the use of coal in other developing countries may not subside, experts say.

Here in Southern California, the air continues to violate the safe standard for PM2.5 during the winter, but not nearly at such severe levels. Still, this one is easier to fix. Simply stop burning logs in your fireplace. The use of fireplaces in Southern California is first of all, absurd and second of all, hurting our air. I have closed off the two fireplaces in our home. I suggest everyone else do the same. The South Coast Air Quality Management District already prohibits this on certain days. Did you know that?

The air district issued two no-burn alerts last week. Meaning those who burned wood or pressed wax logs in a fireplace, stove or outdoor fire ring last Tuesday and Wednesday were breaking the law. The district allows ceramic logs in fireplaces burning natural gas (but I still say we ought to get rid of them all).

Speaking of gas, it’s incredulous that Southern California Gas cannot stop a major gas leak in Porter Ranch, a community north of Los Angeles. It has been leaking for seven weeks!

According to residents there, the leak releases 50,000 kilograms of methane gas per hour. So far, about 700 people had to relocate, some to motels.

There should be a rule: Utility companies that install gas lines must only do so if they know where the off switch is.

The bigger picture is also troubling, since methane gas is a major contributor to global warming. In fact, it traps heat in the upper atmosphere at a rate that is 72 times greater than plain old CO2. The leak is reportedly contributing as much greenhouse gases as 160,000 cars driving in L.A. for a year.

Let’s remember when it comes to greenhouse gases or air pollution, to not just point to China. The finger also should be turned toward ourselves.

http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/environment-and-nature/20151212/a-question-for-paris-talks-is-there-coal-in-your-stocking-this-christmas

Protesters call for immediate shutdown of Porter Ranch gas field

Los Angeles Daily News
By Dana Bartholomew

With escalating urgency due to illnesses they link to a natural gas leak above Porter Ranch, hundreds of protesters Saturday demanded closure of the gas field and a shift to renewable energy to help thwart global warming.

As nearly 200 nations reached a landmark consensus on climate change outside Paris, residents from across Los Angeles converged on the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility to make the demands.

The so-called Draw a Red Line Against SoCal Gas protest in Porter Ranch drew an estimated 300 red-clad protesters who walked a picket line in front of the gas field gate near the top of Tampa Avenue.

• Video: Porter Ranch residents protest SoCalGas due to gas leak

The Southern California Gas Co. field has spewed natural gas since Oct. 23, with growing calls for action by local, state and federal officials, environmental regulators and public health officers.

“I’m a little pissed — I’m furious,” said Jean-Paul DeMars, a film editor, as he stood next to his wife, Vivian, wearing a gas mask. They live catty-cornered from the protest at the junction of Sesnon Boulevard. “I have four kids; they’re sick. The little one, 2 years old, the night before last was vomiting all night long. My 4-year-old, same thing two weeks before. All complain of headaches, including me and my wife. My dog’s got a rash.

“I want this fixed.”

The protest, organized by Save Porter Ranch and environmental groups such as Food & Water Watch and San Fernando Valley 350.org, also urged local officials to direct the Department of Water and Power to transition from natural gas to 100 percent clean energy in 20 years.

It followed a Friday rally by parents calling upon the Los Angeles Unified School District to relocate two Porter Ranch elementary schools located just over a mile from the leaking well. More than 3,600 residents have left their homes or are now relocating to escape gas odors on the eve of the Christmas holiday.

• Photos: Protest against SoCalGas in Porter Ranch over gas leak

Saturday’s protest also followed a lawsuit by the city of Los Angeles, as well as the first individual complaint in what could be a flood of litigation against SoCalGas and its parent company, Sempra Energy.

But shutting down a natural gas field critical to fueling 14 power plants across the region and 21 million homes and businesses across Southern California is not an immediate option, gas company officials say.

“The loss of Aliso Canyon could have a direct affect on electric grid reliability,” said Javier Mendoza, a spokesman for SoCal Gas. “Electric generators served by Aliso Canyon would be subject to natural gas curtailments, which in turn could lead to electricity blackouts. And even (with) the increased availability of renewables, a large portion of electricity consumed by Southern California are still produced by power plants fueled by natural gas.

“Without Aliso Canyon, we would need to build extensive new natural gas pipelines and compression facilities at a cost of $2 billion,” he said. The permit process and construction could take between seven and 10 years.

Public health officials, meanwhile, say prolonged exposure to trace chemicals in natural gas leaking in the Santa Susana mountains north of Porter Ranch can cause long-term health effects. They also say levels found to date were not believed to pose a long-term risk.

Mercaptan, a gas additive that smells like rotten eggs to make it detectable, has been blamed for hundreds of complaints of headaches, nosebleeds, stomachaches, rashes and respiratory illness.

As a cold breeze blew off Oat Mountain, where Gas Co. workers struggled to plug a leak that could stretch through spring, protesters carried such signs as “Turn off fossil fuels and turn on renewables,” “Don’t ruin our air save Porter Ranch” and “Protect our kids.”

• Video: Residents join environmental activists in Porter Ranch calling for a shutdown of gas field

“This is what climate change looks like,” Walker Foley, a Southern California organizer for Food & Water Watch, a Los Angeles-based environmental group, told protesters. “People being relocated from their homes. People have rashes. People have nosebleeds. While gas company officials stay comfortable in their homes.

“It is unacceptable from start to finish,” he said. “How many people want it shut down?”

“Now,” bellowed the crowd.

“Shut it down now means we won’t rest until we have a conversation,” Foley replied. “We say, ‘Shut this monstrosity down now.’ ”

Gas company officials said late Friday they have been making progress in stopping the gas leak. The first phase in drilling a relief well is nearly finished; it will meet the leaking well a mile and a half beneath the mountain. When that’s done, they say they plan to pump heavy mud and fluids into the well to stop the flow of gas from the vast storage reservoir. They will then seal the bottom of the well with cement.

The drilling continues around the clock and is expected to take three to four months.

The 3,600 acre Aliso Canyon Storage Facility, the largest of four company underground reservoirs inside depleted oil fields, stores natural gas bought throughout the year from producers from West Texas to the West Coast. The other storage fields lie beneath Castaic, Playa del Rey, and Goleta in Santa Barbara County.

The Aliso field holds enough gas to supply Southern California for more than a month. The long-term storage, according to Mendoza, helps protect a reliable natural gas supply and bolster customers against price spikes.

“If Aliso Canyon is shut down,” he said, “our customers served there would be at substantial risk of curtailment of service during heat waves, when there’s high demand for electric load generation, (and) during cold spells, when there’s a high residential demand.”

“So Aliso Canyon is a direct source of supply for a large number of gas-fired power plants. It is a critical storage facility that Southern Californians depend on for their natural gas service and for their electricity.”

The Aliso Canyon field stores roughly 80 billion cubic feet of natural gas that is pumped into roughly 115 wells for 210 days a year, injecting natural gas into the reservoir in summer, when costs are lower, and extracting it in winter when there is more demand and costs are higher, according to Maria D’Orsogna, a Cal State Northridge professor with the Institute of Sustainability.

Most of the gas comes from fracking operations in the Midwest, she said, a nonrenewable resource she said contributes to global climate change.

It also potentially fuels one-third of the 280 billion cubic feet of natural gas consumed in Los Angeles County last year, she said, or 4 percent burned throughout the state.

She said it was time Los Angeles galvanized around the Aliso Canyon gas leak and worked to abandon its fossil fuel economy. And it could start, she said, by installing solar rooftops across the nation’s second largest city.

“Now I believe the proper question to ask is not necessarily how important Aliso is to the natural gas supply to the people of Los Angeles,” said D’Orsogna, who once led a fight against oil drilling in rural Italy, in an email. “Rather, how important is human health and our environment to the people of Los Angeles?”

 

 

Outrage Builds in Porter Ranch Over Gas Leak

NBC, Los Angeles
By Jane Yamamoto

http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/outrage-porter-ranch-gas-leak-rally-saturday-361696631.html

(Click the link above to view the video)

Residents gathered to rally at "ground zero" of a gas leak in Porter Ranch that officials were moving to declare as a local state of emergency as thousands leave the area. Jane Yamamoto reports for the NBC4 News at 5 on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015.

The Porter Ranch gas leak was in its seventh week, and thousands of residents have been relocated, leading to a large group rallying for the issue to be taken care of Saturday.

Frustrated residents gathered at the site of a gas leak in Porter Ranch Saturday to rally for the issue to be taken care as the gas leak enters its seventh week. "What do we want? Shut it down! When do we want it? Now!" residents shouted at the intersection of Tampa Avenue and Sesnon Boulevard - "ground zero" for the leak.

On day 51, residents wore masks at a rally as they demanded that SoCal Gas shut down the site. Protesters said that they suffered severe health issues - including irritated throats, out-of-control coughs, and watering eyes.

A resident brought a family pet and said the dog's eyes were red and irritated due to the leak. "Her eyes have gotten pinker," Christine Galanti said of her chocolate Labrador.

She said the dog's has become lethargic since the gas leak starter. Galanti and her husband Craig live two blocks from the leak site, and they have joined more than a thousand Porter Ranch residents waiting to temporarily move out.

The estimated time it will take SoCal Gas to stop the leak was three to four months. The leak was discovered seven weeks ago by gas crews at a well in the Aliso Canyon storage facility.

Another resident, Jay Corson, was among more than a thousand residents who have since relocated. "I have not been in my house for three weeks," Corson said.

Others said the odor stretched beyond Porter Ranch. "We have friends in Northridge, friends in Granada Hills - everybody smells it," Andrew Krowne, a Chatsworth resident, said.

Infrared imaging was released earlier in the week by an environmental chemist.

It shows a plume of hydrocarbons flowing over Porter Ranch SoCal Gas maintained that natural gas is not toxic and leaking levels are too low for any long term health concerns.

"We've heard no definitive studies on gas exposure for long periods," Galanti said.

Sick Of Enduring Gas Leak, Porter Ranch Residents Protest

CBS Local, Los Angeles

http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2015/12/12/sick-of-enduring-gas-leak-porter-ranch-residents-protest/

(Click the link above to view the video)

A large number of residents from Porter Ranch and surrounding areas staged a major protest Saturday frustrated and angered by the continuing gas leak at Aliso Canyon.

The protesters called on SoCal Gas and LA Mayor Eric Garcetti to shut the facility down.
CBS2’s Adrianna Weingold spoke to residents — many of whom have been forced to leave their homes.

Many of the protesters wore gas masks. Elena McMahon was there protesting along with her two children.

She told Weingold the leak is literally making her and her kids sick. “I have terrible headaches,” she said, “my daughter has experienced stomach pains, my son’s has nosebleeds. It’s just really bad.”

Robert Glassman, an attorney representing several families, was also in attendance. His firm released a video showing a huge plume of gas being released from the plant and hovering over the community.

One family said the gas made their daughter so sick, she began having seizures. “I want them to move quicker and I want them to cap this leak,” Gassman said, “Immediately. Today. Not in three months. But today.”

Gillian Wright, the vice president of customer service for SoCal Gas, she said the company is working around the clock to cap the leak — but it will take months. “Our number one priority in the company right now,” she said, “is to address the leak, to get it stopped and to help the community with the concerns  and symptoms that some of the people are experiencing.”

Saturday afternoon, the company set up a mobile Community Resource Center — they’re offering residents and schools air filtration systems and weather stripping.

For people like Lisa Woodard, it’s all too little, too late. “I’m breaking out in skin cancers, all over, that have appeared in the last three to four weeks.”

Weingold spoke to residents who told her that even after the leaky well is fixed, they are concerned that one of the company’s 115 other sites could suffer a similar failure. That’s why they want the entire facility shut down.

FAA Issues Temporary Flight Restrictions Over Porter Ranch Amid Leaking Methane Gas Well

KTLA5
By Chris Burrous, Tracy Bloom, and Kareen Wynter

As Porter Ranch residents continued to express concerns over a leaking methane gas well, the Federal Aviation Administration banned planes from flying over the area until early next March.

The temporary flight restriction was posted on the FAA’s website Thursday and will expire March 8.  It prohibits any aircraft from flying within a half-mile radius of the site, and extends up to 2,000 feet above the surface.

The development comes more than six weeks after natural gas was discovered seeping from an underground well at the Southern California Gas Company’s Aliso Canyon storage facility in the Santa Susana Mountains.

Representatives from the private utility told the Los Angeles City Council last week that they would stop using the well after the leak was fixed, but cautioned it could take months for the seepage to stop.

According to a statement from the Gas Co., the no fly zone was issued over the area “due to heightened media interest in the area, and out of an abundance of caution.”

“This is to minimize risk to workers on the site that could be caused by distractions of aircraft flying too low over the area. There is no need to evacuate,” the statement read.

Lawyers on Dec. 8, 2015, hosted a news conference and showed video allegedly capturing a cloud of gas caused by a leak at Aliso Canyon.

However, FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer wrote in an email that he believed the order was requested “out of concerns that fumes from the gas leak could be ignited from the air.”

He added that restrictions would have no effect on commercial operations, and would have minimal impact on general aviation.

And in an interview Friday morning, Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander slammed the Gas Co., saying he wasn’t buying their “excuse.”

“The FAA, when they put something like that in, it’s very serious,” said Englander, who represents the 12th District.

“SoCal Gas has failed miserably,” the councilman added.

Englander told KTLA that thousands of concerned Porter Ranch residents have fled their homes amid fears over potential long-term health effects from the leak.

“This is a major national crisis,” he said. “The EPA, the PUC, they need to be here publicly sharing every single day, what’s going on.”

The Gas Co. has stated that the well is more than 1 mile away from the nearest homes in the area, and poses no risk to people’s health.

According to a fact sheet from the Los Angeles County Department of Health, the primary health hazard with the odorless gas is flammability.

“Methane inhalation in this setting generally does not lead to health effects,” the fact sheet stated. “Methane level readings in Porter Ranch are substantially lower than flammable limits, and do not pose a health concern to residents in the area.”

Nevertheless, parents concerned about their children’s health have requested the Los Angeles Unified School District relocate students from two local schools — Castlebay Lane and Porter Ranch Community School — until the leak is fixed.

They have started a Change.org petition, and were gathering signatures and urging those who signed it to also email LAUSD board members.

Numerous protests have also taken place over the leak, including one Friday morning.

KTLA’s Jennifer Thang contributed to this story. 

One Broken Pipe Is Leaking A Huge Amount Of Methane

Think Progress
By Samantha Page

A gas storage site in Los Angeles has been leaking for more than a month, in what environmentalists say should be a “wake-up call” for regulators about the state’s aging gas infrastructure.

The Aliso Canyon storage well, about 30 miles northwest of downtown, is releasing 50,000 kilograms of methane an hour, according to an estimate from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). The Southern California Gas Company discovered the leak on October 23 and has been unable to contain it.

“This is sort of the worst case scenario,” EDF’s Tim O’Connor told ThinkProgress. His group estimates the storage well has lost about 2 percent of its gas.

Because natural gas is 80 percent methane, and methane is a potent greenhouse gas, the amount Aliso Canyon has leaked will have the impact of 2.6 to 2.9 million metric tons of carbon for the next 20 years. Put another way, every day the leak continues, it single-handedly accounts for 25 percent of California’s total methane emissions.

Methane emissions from the Aliso Canyon leak versus the rest of the state. The black line indicates potential range of values.

A spokesperson for the company said it was impossible to determine how much gas had leaked at this time. “We are committed to — and we will — stop the flow of gas, and are working with some of the world’s best well management experts to seal the leak as quickly and as safely as possible,” Kristine Lloyd told ThinkProgress in an email. “We are unable to provide a specific timetable, but the relief well process could take several months. While the relief well is built, we will continue to try to stop the flow of gas by pumping fluids down the well.”

In addition to being a climate problem, the leak might pose a public health issue. The gas in the well has been treated with an odorant — in order to let homeowners and gas company workers know when there is a leak. That odorant is causing problems in the area.

“Longterm exposure of irritants in a very pungent form can have really deleterious effects,” O’Connor said. The storage well is also a former oil well, which means it could have benzene and other chemicals. The gas company has received hundreds of complaints, including nausea, dizziness, and nosebleeds from the smell. Local groups, such as the Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council, are pressuring the company to shut down the leak as quickly as possible.

California was already attempting to curb methane emissions — and improve its gas infrastructure.

Last fall, the governor signed legislation directing the California Public Utilities Commission to prioritize natural gas pipeline safety and infrastructure. As part of that legislation, California’s utilities submitted natural gas leak audits to the PUC. In that data, leaks accounted for less than 1 percent of the gas moving through the system. Critically, though, unaccounted for gas loss was “many times larger than gas lost due to known leaks and emissions.”

In addition, there were more leaks in 2014 than there had been in 2013.

The audit also found leaks that were 30 years old, O’Connor said. “You’ve got a problem with your infrastructure and your management of your infrastructure if you’ve been watching it leak for 30 years.”

EDF is hoping this leak will help draw attention to the state’s issue.

“We want to use this particular leak as an important marker, highlighting something we’ve been saying for a long time,” O’Connor said. “We have an aging infrastructure.”

When O’Connor was asked if the leak at the 50-year-old Aliso Canyon well was the canary in the coalmine, he told ThinkProgress:

“The canary has already died.”

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/11/24/3725528/aliso-canyon-methane-leak/

Ten Years after Toxic Chemical Settlement, DuPont Failing to Keep Its Promises

Center For Effective Government
By Amanda Starbuck

This week, one of the alleged victims of DuPont’s toxic cover-up won a settlementagainst the company. Jurors found that Carla Marie Bartlett contracted kidney cancer as a result of being exposed to C8 and awarded her $1.6 million. Kidney cancer is one of at least six diseases linked to toxic C8 exposure. The Ohio woman previously resided next to the same river that was contaminated by DuPont’s West Virginia Manufacturing plant.

The settlement paves the way for other victims to receive similar compensation. DuPont, which denies that C8 exposure contributed to the victim’s cancer, stated it will appeal the decision.  

***

In 1938, a DuPont chemist accidently created a chemical compound that would make thousands of products water- and stain-resistant. The compound belongs to a family of chemicals known asperfluorinated chemicals (PFCs). PFCs soon made their way into nonstick cookware, carpeting, food packaging, and a host of other products.  

But one of these chemicals (C8) turned out to be anything but the “miracle” chemical that DuPont claimed. A new report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reveals how DuPont covered up the health risks from C8 for decades – and how the company is reneging on promises it made to victims of C8 exposure.

DuPont has known about the negative health effects of C8 for more than 50 years.

Internal research conducted by DuPont revealed that C8 has no safe level of exposure in animals. Subsequent studies demonstrated that PFCs accumulate in the body and are passed from mothers to their babies. Scientists also found cancer clusters among workers at C8 manufacturing plants and birth defects in children born to female employees

DuPont also monitored drinking water sources near its West Virginia manufacturing plant. In 1984, the company detected C8 contamination resulting from decades of waste disposal in landfills, unlined pits, and waterways.

But rather than warning workers and the public about these risks – and alerting federal regulators, as required by law – DuPont hid these damning findings and continued to manufacture C8.  

It took the mysterious die-off of cattle near the West Virginia plant for local residents to become suspicious. In 1998, local ranchers sued DuPont, and their lawyer Robert Bilott uncovered DuPont’s secret water tests through a court order; this provided the evidence of the C8 water contamination the victims needed. Bilott helped the ranchers settle out of court and then went on to lead a class-action lawsuit on behalf of 50,000 local residents.

DuPont settled the class-action lawsuit in 2005, paying $70 million dollars in damages up front and agreeing to fund the clean-up of water supplies. DuPont also agreed to fund an independent panel of researchers to examine the health effects of C8 exposure. Victims are able to seek damages for any diseases linked to this exposure, and DuPont will pay up to $235 million to medically monitor nearby residents. (To date, the panel has linked C8 to at least six diseases, including pregnancy-induced hypertension, testicular and kidney cancers, and thyroid disease.)

In 2006, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fined DuPont $16.5 million dollars for failing to notify the agency about health and environmental risks associated with C8 – the largest civil penalty EPA has obtained to date.

That same year, bowing to agency and public pressure, DuPont announced it would “voluntarily” phase-out production of C8 by 2015.

Ten Years Later, Are We Any Safer?

While DuPont and other companies producing C8 are phasing out production this year, they are replacing C8 with other compounds from the same chemical family. And these alternatives also tend to accumulate in our bodies and in the environment. Many are untested and may be as harmful as C8.

Virtually everyone in the U.S. has detectable levels of PFCs in their bodies.

Exposure is not limited to pollution from manufacturing plants; we come into contact with PFCs througheveryday products. Most exposure comes from carpeting and carpet cleaning products. Waterproof clothing and food packaging (like microwave popcorn bags) also contain significant levels of PFCs. Nonstick cookware (like pans coated with Teflon) can expose consumers to PFCs, though at comparably smaller amounts than other products. 

Over 200 scientists from across the world signed the Madrid Statement, warning of the dangers of PFCs and urging governments and manufacturers to severely limit their use.

In the meantime, DuPont continues to produce harmful PFCs – while fighting to evade its liabilities to victims.

The 2005 settlement requires DuPont to fund clean-ups of public water supplies with more than 0.05 parts per billion of C8 (equal to a drop of water in 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools). EWG reports that one community’s water supply originally tested at a slightly lower amount. Although it later tested above the threshold, DuPont refused to fund the clean-up. A court ruled in DuPont’s favor.

DuPont may have an even slyer move planned: in July of this year, the company will spin off the unit that created C8 and now creates its replacement chemicals. “Chemours” will assume all of DuPont’s C8 liabilities. Chemours could sink under these liabilities (the original unit’s sales are in decline) and go bankrupt. This could potentially deplete clean-up funds, medical monitoring, and future damage payments made to victims of C8 exposure. EWG notes that other companies have made similar moves to avoid liabilities.

DuPont must be held accountable for the health of the people it poisoned for decades.

DuPont is a very profitable company. It can afford to pay the terms of the 2005 settlement and provide clean-up funds for all affected communities. The company should not be allowed to shed its liabilities to its planned spinoff. It is unacceptable that DuPont and other chemical companies knowingly continue to market products with chemicals that their own research shows are severely harmful to workers and consumers.

DuPont’s cover-up of C8 risks, and its continued use of other PFCs, demonstrates that companies cannot be allowed to self-regulate.

Unfortunately, our federal government does a poor job of keeping toxins out of our products. The 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act gives EPA the authority to regulate the over 84,000 chemicals registered for commercial use. But in almost 40 years, EPA has tested only about 250 chemicals and restricted the use of only nine – largely because of extreme industry opposition when EPA tries to regulate chemicals.

Congress is working to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act. But current bills offer only moderate process improvements and will prevent states from taking actions to protect their residents against toxic chemicals.

If you want chemical safety laws that will improve EPA’s ability to identify harmful chemicals and remove them from the market, sign our action alert. Urge your senators to oppose reform that caters to the chemical industry.

You can learn more about C8 contamination from Keep Your Promises, an advocacy organization based in the communities affected by DuPont’s poisonous chemicals. 

http://www.foreffectivegov.org/blog/ten-years-after-toxic-chemical-settlement-dupont-failing-keep-its-promises

The Teflon Toxin Goes To Court

The Intercept_
By Sharon Learner

DUPONT WENT TO COURT this week, defending its use of C8, the chemical that spread from the company’s Parkersburg, West Virginia, plant into the drinking water of some 80,000 people in West Virginia and Ohio. A jury in Columbus, Ohio, is now hearing the case of Carla Bartlett, a 59-year-old woman who developed kidney cancer after drinking C8-contaminated water for more than a decade.

As The Intercept reported in a three-part series last month, Bartlett’s is the first of some 3,500 personal injury and 37 wrongful death claims stemming from the 2005 settlement of a class-action suit filed on behalf of people who lived near the plant. Another trial over the chemical, which for decades was used in the production of Teflon and many other products, is scheduled for November. Together, the “bellwether” cases, six in all, are expected to give attorneys on both sides a sense of whether the rest of the claims will proceed or settle — and for how much.

Bartlett’s attorneys, including Robert Bilott, who has been working on C8 since taking the case of a West Virginia farmer named Wilbur Tennant in 1999, argue that DuPont is guilty of negligence, battery, and infliction of emotional harm for exposing Bartlett to C8 in her drinking water.

DuPont’s attorneys, who summarized their case in opening arguments and will present their witnesses later in the trial, insist that the company bears no responsibility for the kidney tumor for which Bartlett was treated in 1997. “Nobody at DuPont expected that there would be any harm from the extremely low levels of C8 that were reached in the community,” said DuPont’s attorney Damond Mace in his opening argument.

The company’s defense hinges on the contention that company employees did not realize C8 was dangerous at the time Bartlett was exposed — despite hundreds of internal documents detailing DuPont’s knowledge that the chemical posed risks to both animals and humans. When evidence of its harm did emerge, said Mace, it was too late: “Nothing that happened after 1997 would have allowed DuPont to go back and do things any differently than had already been done.”

The particular threats posed by the chemical were detailed by the findings of a panel of scientists, who in 2012 determined that C8 exposure at the level measured in six water districts — at least .05 parts per billion — was “more likely than not” linked with six illnesses: preeclampsia; ulcerative colitis; high cholesterol; thyroid disease; testicular cancer; and Bartlett’s disease, kidney cancer.

“Kidney cancer occurs every day all across this great country of ours.”

The 2005 class-action settlement requires DuPont to accept C8’s links to these diseases, and that agreement forces the company’s attorneys to walk a legal tightrope over causality. While they must admit that C8 can cause kidney cancer, they deny that it caused Bartlett’s particular cancer. As Mace told the jury: “Kidney cancer occurs every day all across this great country of ours.” He then pointed out that Bartlett, who weighs 230 pounds, displayed one of the “major risk factors” for the cancer: obesity.

DuPont also contends that C8 isn’t as toxic as the plaintiffs claim. As evidence, Mace cited a report produced by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, with the help of an industry-funded group and several DuPont employees, that set a temporary standard for drinking water safety that was 150 parts per billion (ppb). Yet the company’s own internal standard for the chemical was 1 ppb.

The DuPont lawyer also told the jury about a study the company conducted that concluded Wilbur Tennant, the West Virginia farmer who sued DuPont over the death of his entire herd of cattle, was responsible for his own cows’ deaths. The report failed to disclose that the company had dumped 7,100 tons of C8-contaminated sludge into a landfill near the stream from which Tennant’s cows drank. Instead, the authors blamed Tennant’s “failure to provide the right supplements for the cattle” — a conclusion Mace repeated in court, adding, “They had pink eye and many other issues.”

Wilbur Tennant shot this video in the late 1990s on his property in West Virginia. He died of cancer in 2009; he was 67. This video contains graphic imagery.

If the chemical were really dangerous, DuPont attorneys contend, government agencies would have regulated it. The implication is that the company was within its rights to dump barrels of the stuff into the ocean, as it did in the 1960s. And that it was perfectly fine to emit more than 632,000 pounds of the toxic substance directly into the Ohio River, as DuPont did over the more than 50 years it used C8 in West Virginia. “They were allowed under the law,” Mace said of the plant’s river emissions. “There is a difference between emissions from a plant and what an individual is exposed to. There weren’t people there right at that pipe.”

We’ll soon know which argument a jury finds more persuasive. But even if they decide in Bartlett’s favor, or the company opts to settle the suits, the costs may not fall to DuPont. Facing years of litigation over the chemical and the possibility of federal regulation — and thus enormous cleanup liabilities — in July DuPont spun off its chemical division into a separate company called Chemours.

Settlement costs could force Chemours, whose stock price has fallen 57 percent since June, to the brink of bankruptcy — or beyond.

 

https://theintercept.com/2015/09/19/teflon-toxin-goes-to-court/

 

This week crucial for those suing over C8

The Columbus Dispatch
By Kathy Lynn Gray

Thousands of Ohio and West Virginia residents who are suing DuPont over life-threatening health problems will be keeping a close eye on federal court in Columbus beginning this week.

That’s when a barrage of court filings is expected to be filed in Bartlett v. E.I. du Pont De Nemours and Co., the first of two test cases for plaintiffs claiming that a DuPont plant in Washington, W.Va., dumped a toxic chemical into the water there for years.

The Bartlett trial begins in U.S. District Court on Sept. 14 in front of Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr. The trial is expected to last four weeks. More than 3,500 cases are part of the multidistrict litigation that has been assigned to Sargus.

Because the cases involve individual medical issues, the courts treat each one separately. But because the cases have common elements, fact-gathering is done jointly, and legal decisions affect all the cases.

Sargus chose the Bartlett case and a second case to be representative of the litigation, according to court documents. DuPont had recommended the Bartlett case, and plaintiffs’ attorneys recommended the other case, Wolf v. DuPont.

After they are tried, the rest of the cases will be settled, withdrawn or taken to trial based on the results of the first two.

Carla M. Bartlett’s complaint says she developed kidney cancer in 1997 from drinking water contaminated by C8 discharged from DuPont’s plant near Parkersburg, W.Va. DuPont used C8 to make Teflon and other products.

DuPont had determined in 1961 that the chemical was toxic in animals, according to court documents. After numerous investigations and legal efforts, DuPont began filtering C8 from the water in 2005. That year, the company also began paying for health studies of people living near the plant, in the Mid-Ohio Valley along the Ohio River.

The multidistrict litigation stems from a 2001 class-action lawsuit in West Virginia that ended in 2005 with an agreement that 80,000 members of that class could sue DuPont over their health problems.

A 2012 health study concluded that C8 can be linked to thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, testicular and kidney cancers, pregnancy-induced hypertension and high cholesterol.

Bartlett’s case accuses DuPont of negligence for failing to make sure that it was safe to dump C8 into the water; fraud and concealment for failing to inform the public of the dangers of C8; conspiring with others to conceal C8 dangers; “trespass and battery” for allowing C8 to enter the bloodstream and body of the plaintiff; and inflicting emotional distress.

Court documents show that Bartlett, now 59, of Guysville in Athens County, had surgery to remove part of her kidney. The surgery was after she gave birth to a son.

Her lawsuit asks for an undetermined amount of monetary damages to compensate Bartlett for her cancer and punitive damages for the company’s “complete disregard and reckless indifference for the safety and welfare of the general public and to plaintiff.”

Sargus has already ruled that Bartlett cannot pursue her claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress by DuPont and her claim of fraudulent concealment in the trial.

In the second case, scheduled for trial on Nov. 30, John M. Wolf, 54, of Parkersburg, W.Va., claims that the C8 in the water caused his ulcerative colitis.

In July, Sargus rejected DuPont’s request to throw out the Bartlett and Wolf cases.

kgray@dispatch.com

C8 timeline

* 1951: DuPont begins using C8 to make Teflon and other products at its Washington Works plant near Parkersburg, W.Va.

* 1961: DuPont confirms C8 is toxic in animals.

* 1978: 3M, which manufactures the chemical, reports that C8 has been found in its workers’ blood.

* 1980: Studies by 3M confirm that C8 is toxic to rats and monkeys.

* 1984: DuPont has employees obtain drinking-water samples from taps near Washington Works and finds high C8 levels in the water.

* May 2000: 3M announces it will stop making some chemicals, including C8, after being pressed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

* October 2000: DuPont reaches a settlement with a West Virginia farmer who claimed in a lawsuit that C8 killed his cattle and sickened his family.

* 2001: A class-action lawsuit is filed against DuPont on behalf of residents exposed to C8.

* 2002: The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection concludes that C8 in water presents “possible health risks to the public.”

* 2002: In an agreement with the U.S. EPA, DuPont agrees to reduce air and water emissions of C8 and install equipment to remove up to 95 percent of the C8 in the plant’s wastewater.

* 2005: A settlement is approved in the class-action lawsuit. It requires DuPont to pay for a huge health study of residents around the Washington Works plant, to pay for medical monitoring of residents and to filter C8 from the water.

* 2005: DuPont agrees to pay $16.5 million to settle a federal complaint that it hid health information about C8.

* 2008: The health study of residents begins.

* 2012: The health study finds probable links between mid-Ohio Valley residents’ C8 exposure and thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, testicular and kidney cancers, pregnancy-induced hypertension and high cholesterol.

* 2013: A judicial panel consolidates personal-injury lawsuits against DuPont in federal court in Columbus.

* 2014: Medical monitoring of residents begins.

* 2015: The is the date by which DuPont has agreed to phase out production and use of C8.

* 2015: The first personal-injury lawsuits against DuPont are expected to go to trial.

Sources: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Ohio EPA; court documents; Dispatch archives

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2015/09/06/this-week-crucial-for-those-suing-over-c8.html

 

Welcome to Beautiful Parkersburg, West Virginia Home to one of the most brazen, deadly corporate gambits in U.S. history.

Highline, Huffington Post
By Mariah Blake

“Hold on to something,” Jim Tennant warned as he fired up his tractor. We lurched down a rutted dirt road past the old clapboard farmhouse where he grew up. Jim still calls it “the home place,” although its windows are now boarded up and the outhouse is crumbling into the field.

At 72, Jim is so slight that he nearly disappears into his baggy plaid shirt. But he drives his tractor like a dirt bike. We sped past the caved-in hog pen and skidded down a riverbank. The tractor tipped precariously toward the water, slamming into a fallen tree, but Jim just laughed.

When we had gone as far as the tractor could take us, Jim climbed off and squeezed through a barbed-wire fence. On the other side was a lush field teeming with crabapple and sycamore, and beyond that, the muddy trickle of water, known as Dry Run Creek, that has brought Jim’s family so much heartache. “This is what Dry Run looks like in the wet season,” Jim told me. “Summer grazing was in the hollow up there—before they destroyed everything, at least.”

The Tennant clan farmed the fertile patch of soil around the home place for more than a century. In the 1950s, Jim’s father ran off, leaving his wife to look after nine cows, two mules, one hog and five children. But the family got by, eating turtle and muskrat and peddling anything it could grow or forage—wild watercress and elderberries in the spring; ginseng and lima beans in the summer; hay and apples in the fall. Their West Virginia farm eventually grew into a 700-acre operation, with more than 200 head of cattle and enough corn to pack a 35-foot silo. Jim and his wife Della bought a house on an adjoining plot of land and swapped the outhouse for an indoor toilet.

Then, in the early 1980s, DuPont, which ran a sprawling chemical plant called Washington Works in nearby Parkersburg, approached the family about buying some acreage for a landfill. The Tennants were wary of having a waste dump so close to the farm. But DuPont assured them it would only dispose of non-toxic material like ash and scrap metal, and so they agreed to sell.

Shortly after the deal closed, Jim and Della, whose home abutted the new landfill, say their two young daughters started wheezing and hacking. Worried about the girls’ health, they moved to a house in town. But most of their relatives stayed, and Jim and Della continued hunting game and eating beef grazed on the farm.

Della took her daughters’ Girl Scout troop there to catch tadpoles in the creek and make plaster molds of deer tracks. Then, at some point in the mid-1990s, the water in the creek turned black and foamy, and the family began finding dead deer tangled in the brambles. The cattle started going blind, sprouting tumors, vomiting blood.

“One time this cow was coming down the road and it was just bellowing, the awfulest bellow you ever heard,” Della told me. “And every time it would bellow, blood would gush from its mouth and its nose. It just bellowed and bellowed and blood just kept flying, and then it would fall down, and it would try to get up … We didn’t have anything to shoot it with, so we just had to watch it until finally the cow bled to death.”

 

Desperate to find out what was killing the animals, Jim and his brother Earl dissected some of the bodies. “As soon as you cut the skin loose, you get some of the foulest smells you’ve ever smelled,” says Jim. “The innards was bright green.”

Soon the cow carcasses were piling up faster than the Tennants could bury them. Family members were being hospitalized for breathing problems and chemical burns. Convinced that the landfill was to blame, the Tennants tried unsuccessfully to get help from environmental agencies. They also considered suing DuPont, but had trouble finding a local lawyer who was willing to sign on.

Finally, in the late 1990s, the Graham family, who owned the neighboring farm, suggested they call Rob Bilott, an attorney at a Cincinnati firm called Taft Stettinius & Hollister. Bilott was hardly an obvious choice: He had spent much of his career on the other side of the table, representing chemical companies. But his grandmother lived in Parkersburg and was friends with the Grahams; Bilott had ridden horses and milked cows at their place as a child. After hearing the Tennants’ story, his firm agreed to accept their case.

Over the next year, Bilott filed numerous motions and DuPont turned over boxes of documents on hazardous substances used at the Washington Works plant. But none seemed relevant to the Tennants’ situation. Then, in August 2000, Bilott came across a single paper that mentioned the presence of a little-known substance called perfluorooctanoic acid in Dry Run Creek. Bilott requested more information on the chemical, which is often called C8 and is found in thousands of household products, including carpeting, Teflon pans, waterproof clothes, dental floss, kitty litter and cosmetics. Unbeknownst to Bilott, his inquiry triggered a panic inside DuPont’s Delaware headquarters. "The shit is about to hit the fan in WV,” the company’s in-house counsel, Bernard J. Reilly, wrote in an email to his colleagues. “The lawyer for the farmer finally realizes the surfactant [C8] issue … Fuck him.”

 

2: Plastic Man

In 1802, a young French aristocrat named Irénée du Pont de Nemours, who had fled the French Revolution, built a gunpowder mill in northeast Delaware. By World War I, his venture, known as DuPont, had grown so large that it supplied half of the world’s gunpowder and was expanding into bombs and poison gas. But it was drawing fire on the home front. In 1934, Congress spent three days grilling DuPont executives about allegations that they had overbilled the military for explosives. The company became a national pariah almost overnight. To salvage both its reputation and its bottom line, it turned to a legendary adman named Bruce Barton. The only way DuPont could escape the “atmosphere of plague,” Barton advised, was to transform its image from that of a purveyor of doomsday weaponry to a maker of peacetime products that benefited American society.

The following year, DuPont unveiled a new slogan: “Better Things for Better Living … Through Chemistry.” It wasn’t so much a marketing catchphrase as a blueprint for a utopian future. Through the marvels of science, synthetic materials would free people from mundane tasks, allowing them to lead lives of leisure and ease.

DuPont Vice President Charles Stine would unveil one of these revolutionary materials at the site of the upcoming 1938 New York World’s Fair. The fabric was called nylon, he announced. It was made from “coal, air and water” and could be fashioned into fibers “as strong as steel and as fine as a spider’s web.” When nylons went on sale to the general public in 1940, tens of thousands of women stormed past shop windows displaying test tubes and beakers to grab a pair of the miraculous run-proof stockings. Once, in Pittsburgh, 40,000 people queued up to compete for 13,000 pairs. According to a local newspaper, “A good, old fashioned hair-pulling, face-scratching fight broke out in the line.”

But it wasn’t until after World War II that plastics really took off. DuPont and its competitors had developed and refined a host of products for the Allied troops— among them plastic wrap, vinyl and Teflon, which was used to coat the valves and seals of the Manhattan Project’s uranium enrichment equipment. The companies had standardized their production lines to meet the demands of global warfare, which positioned them perfectly to capitalize on the postwar economic boom. In 1948, DuPont built the Washington Works plant to bring these innovative materials to the American consumer.

The new products quickly captured the popular imagination. A Science Digest report from the era envisioned the life of a “Plastic Man.” This fortunate being would enter a world of “color and bright shining surfaces, where childish hands find nothing to break … no crevices to harbour dirt or germs.” He would live his life “surrounded on every side by this tough, safe, clean material which human thought has created.”

The rapid proliferation of plastics gave ordinary people access to conveniences and goods that had once been beyond their reach. It also brought tens of thousands of unregulated chemicals into American homes. In the early 1950s, a group of Columbia University scientists published several papers describing high rates of cancer in rats exposed to plastics such as vinyl, Saran wrap and Teflon. Some lawmakers began to worry about the lack of safety testing for chemicals in the food supply. In 1951, Democratic congressman James Delaney formed a committee to investigate the health effects of these substances and write legislation to protect the public.

The American Chemistry Council 1 , an industry trade group, responded by hiring Hill & Knowlton, the same PR firm that would later engineer Big Tobacco’s campaign to discredit the science linking smoking to disease. According to internal industry documents, Hill & Knowlton’s work for plastics companies deployed many of the tactics that the tobacco industry would use to forestall regulation. Chemical makers distributed pro-industry science materials to tens of thousands of public school classrooms, and attacked independent scientists whose work challenged their interests. When Wilhelm Hueper of the National Cancer Institute told the Delaney Committee that ingesting even tiny traces of cancer-causing chemicals was “not advisable,” the industry launched a vicious smear campaign against him. In a letter to the FBI, DuPont’s medical director even accused Hueper—who had emigrated from Germany after the war—of being a member of the Nazi party. The PR assault worked. When Congress passed a food-additives bill in 1958, chemicals already in use were presumed to be safe and grandfathered in.

In reality, the manufacturers themselves already had qualms about some of these chemicals. Among them was C8, a soaplike substance that gives Teflon its nonstick qualities. According to internal company documents, as early as 1954, employees at Washington Works reported that C8 might be toxic. DuPont took these complaints seriously enough that it held off on marketing Teflon to the public.

Then, an enterprising French engineer named Marc Grégoire introduced the world to the wonders of nonstick cookware. Grégoire had hit on the idea in the early 1950s, after coating his wife’s muffin tins with Teflon to stop dough from sticking to the sides. Eventually, his “Satisfry” skillets started popping up in American department stores, and DuPont sought Food and Drug Administration approval to use Teflon in cooking and food processing equipment. In 1961, the Teflon-coated “Happy Pan” hit the market.

During the Happy Pan rollout, DuPont’s chief toxicologist, Dorothy Hood, cautioned in a memo to executives that the substance should be "handled with extreme care.” She explained that a new study had found enlarged livers in rats and rabbits exposed to C8, which suggested the chemical was toxic. But DuPont continued to market Teflon and related products, which would burgeon into a billion-dollar-a-year business for the company.

By the early 1970s, Congress was once again debating how to regulate the chemicals that now formed the fabric of American domestic life. Both houses drafted legislation that would empower the Environmental Protection Agency to study the health and environmental effects of chemicals and regulate their use. But the industry unleashed another lobbying blitz. Under the final version of the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, existing chemicals were again grandfathered in. Manufacturers did have to inform the EPA when they introduced new chemicals—but no testing was required. The resulting regulatory regime, which exists to this day, is remarkably laissez-faire. Only a handful of the 80,000-plus chemicals on the market have ever been tested for safety—meaning that we are all, in effect, guinea pigs in a vast, haphazard chemistry experiment.

 

3: The Factory

Sue Bailey had just gotten pregnant with her third child when she was transferred to the Teflon division of Washington Works. There, she said, she channeled C8 waste into on-site pits using a contraption that looked like a bicycle pump. For the rest of her pregnancy, she suffered from crippling anxiety. “I knew in my gut that something was really wrong,” she says.

When Bailey gave birth in January 1981, the baby had only half a nose and a ragged eyelid that gaped down to the middle of his cheek. The doctors warned that he might not live until morning. Bailey was so shell-shocked that she could hardly bear to hold him. “I was terrified that he would die in my arms,” she told me.

Little Bucky survived and was transported to Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, where he would undergo the first of many surgeries. A few days later, a DuPont physician called to question Bailey about Bucky’s deformities. He claimed it was a routine inquiry.

When Bailey returned to work later that year, she found a memo on the locker-room bench. It described a recent study by 3M, the manufacturer of C8, that had documented “birth defects in the eyes of unborn rats” exposed to the chemical in utero. Female workers who came into contact with C8 were urged to consult their doctors “prior to contemplating pregnancy.” Bailey took the paper to the on-site medical offices and demanded to know whether the chemical had anything to do with her son’s birth defects. She says the DuPont doctors insisted there was no connection. But a few months later, a friend put her in touch with another Teflon employee named Karen Robinson who had given birth to a baby with similar eye deformities. “That pretty much clinched it for both of us,” Bailey says.

Bailey continued working at DuPont—she needed the insurance to pay for Bucky’s numerous surgeries. But she noticed that the plant foremen were treating her differently. “I just wanted them to say, ‘Yes, this is what happened to your baby and we're really sorry about it. Is there anything we can do to help you?’” she says. “Instead, they shunned me like I had plague.”

Her superiors had reason to be nervous. Two other secret industry studies had found eye defects in lab animals whose mothers were fed C8 and related chemicals during pregnancy. In March 1981, DuPont sent a pathologist and a birth defects expert to review the 3M data Bailey had read about in the locker room. They concluded that “the study was valid” and that “the observed fetal eye defects were due to C8,” according to internal DuPont documents. DuPont immediately removed all female workers from areas where they might come into contact with the chemical.

The Washington Works lab also started designating one person per shift to analyze C8. Kenton Wamsley, a former lab technician, vividly recalls the day his supervisor assigned him this task. “I had an inkling that something was wrong,” he told me. “But he said, ‘Ken, this stuff won’t hurt the men.’ I wasn’t about to go against the paycheck that supported my family. So I shut my mouth.”

In April 1981, DuPont began secretly monitoring 50 female employees who had been exposed to C8. Under the guise of routine medical checks, it collected blood samples and had the women fill out lengthy questionnaires. The goal, DuPont’s medical director Bruce Karrh explained in a memo, was to “answer a single question—does C8 cause abnormal children?” The first batch of data showed that two of the seven pregnant workers exposed to the chemical—Bailey (referred to as “Employee W”) and Robinson (“Employee X”)—had given birth to babies with eye and nostril deformities. The researchers concluded that this was a “statistically significant” increase over the two-in-1,000 birth-defect rate in the general population. Rather than informing regulators or employees, DuPont quietly abandoned the pregnancy study.

Less than a year later, DuPont and 3M had compiled new data purportedly showing that there was no link between C8 and birth defects in animals. In a meeting with EPA officials, the companies claimed that the deformities reported in previous studies had actually been caused by researchers mangling delicate fetal eye tissue during dissection. 2 According to the meeting records, the DuPont officials in attendance made no mention of the birth defects in the babies of its workers. Immediately after the meeting, DuPont moved women of childbearing age back into areas with C8 exposure.

But DuPont continued its clandestine testing of employees, and this yielded more troubling revelations. In a confidential November 1982 memo, DuPont’s medical director warned that some employees were being exposed to potentially dangerous levels of C8. He urged that all "available practical steps be taken to reduce this exposure.” The following year, 3M documented rising levels of C8 in its workers—even when their exposure to the chemical stayed the same. This development should be viewed “with serious concern,” 3M’s medical officer cautioned, because it suggested the chemical accumulated in the body rather than breaking down. (Chemicals with these qualities tend to be very toxic even at low doses.)

DuPont didn’t inform its workers of these developments, much less take additional safety precautions. Shift after shift, Ken Wamsley says he handled C8 samples with his bare hands and inhaled fumes from the furnace where he heat-tested Teflon at 700 degrees. Before long, he developed asthma and crippling stomach pain. “I started cramping up real bad, getting diarrhea,” he explained. “One time, I woke up and my underpants was completely wet with blood.”

As the evidence about C8 piled up, DuPont started to consider the effect the substance might be having outside the factory fence. Over the decades, the company had dumped huge quantities of Teflon waste into the ocean and into unlined pits along the Ohio River. In 1984, DuPont began dispatching employees to secretly fill jugs of water at gas stations and general stores around the plant and bring them in for testing. Sure enough, the tests revealed C8 in the water supplies of two nearby towns—Lubeck, West Virginia, and Little Hocking, Ohio, just across the river from Washington Works. DuPont considered notifying the public, but ultimately chose not to.

That May, a group of DuPont executives gathered at the company’s Wilmington headquarters to discuss the C8 issue. According to the minutes, attendees discussed recently adopted plans to cut C8 emissions at Washington Works, such as adding scrubbers to vents that spewed the chemical into the air. But they decided to scrap these initiatives. The additional expense was not “justified,” the executives concluded, since it wouldn’t substantially reduce the company’s liability. “Liability was further defined as the incremental liability from this point on if we do nothing as we are already liable for the past 32 years of operation,” the minutes read. “From a broader corporate viewpoint the costs are small.”

 

4: The Cover-Up

They call them DuPonters, the 1,700-plus men and women from in and around Parkersburg who make their living at the Washington Works plant. In an area where few people have college degrees, the DuPonters stand out for their relative wealth. Often, they’re singled out for special treatment. (More than one person told me that DuPont employees could get bank loans without even filling out applications.) And as one of the region’s largest employers, DuPont itself inspires a fierce loyalty. Many people see it as the community’s economic lifeblood—and feel that anyone who challenges the company is threatening their livelihood, too.

But once the Tennants’ animals started dying, they felt they had no choice but to fight. Jim’s brother, Earl, sent videos of foamy water and diseased cows to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. State regulators documented “numerous deficiencies” in the landfill’s operation, including erosion “gullies” that funneled waste into Dry Run. In 1996, the department reached a deal with DuPont: The company would pay a $250,000 fine, and the department would take no further action against the landfill. (The official who negotiated the deal later became a DuPont consultant.) But the animals kept dying even faster, and by the late 1990s, the EPA was asking questions. DuPont proposed a collaborative investigation, in which it would appoint half of the scientists. The company didn’t provide the other scientists on the team with information on C8—much less notify them that it was in the water. The final report concluded that the Tennants’ problems were caused by “deficiencies in herd management.”

When the Tennants finally filed suit in 1999, other locals treated them like lepers. “We'd walk in a restaurant, and everybody in a restaurant would get up and leave,” Della told me. “Even the other people at our church wanted nothing to do with us.”

The Tennants had brought their case at a moment when the entire chemical industry was in state of panic over C8. A 1993 study by 3M, which manufactured C8, had found that workers with ongoing exposure were three times more likely than the average man to die of prostate cancer. DuPont scientists had also linked it to leukemia and other diseases in people. Following these developments, the American Chemistry Council formed a global team to tackle the “C8 issue.” According to court documents, one white paper circulated to companies around the world was considered so sensitive that each copy was numbered for tracking. Recipients were ordered to return a previous draft for destruction.

To get a more accurate understanding of C8’s effect on human health, 3M began testing it on monkeys, which are biologically more similar to people than lab rats. To the researchers’ surprise, even monkeys receiving the lowest dose suffered troubling symptoms, including weight loss and liver swelling. One of the three monkeys in the lowest-dose group fell into a catatonic stupor and died. These findings suggested even modest exposure could have devastating health effects. 3M decided that the study was too significant to keep quiet.

In April 2000, the company notified the EPA of its conclusions. One month later, it announced that it would phase out a close relative of C8 called perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, which was then used in 3M’s Scotchgard fabric protector. The press release made no mention of C8, but the company began quietly phasing that out, too. Anonymous EPA officials later told The New York Times that if 3M hadn’t stopped producing PFOS, they would have “have taken steps to remove the product from the market.” (Only five chemicals have ever been banned under the Toxic Substances Control Act.)

That August, the Tennants’ lawyer, Rob Bilott, stumbled across the document referring to C8 and started searching for more information. There was almost nothing in the public record—in fact, the only clues Bilott could find at the time were in the 3M press release. The judge in the Tennant case eventually forced DuPont to turn over thousands of documents on C8. And that’s when the picture finally snapped into focus.

The documents revealed that DuPont had used the landfill near the Tennants’ farm as part of an increasingly elaborate cover-up. After discovering C8 in Lubeck’s water supply in the early 1980s, DuPont had dredged up 14 million pounds of C8-laced sludge from the unlined pits near the town wells and dumped it into the Dry Run landfill.

But the C8 levels in Lubeck’s water kept climbing. To hide this, DuPont bought the town’s well field for roughly twice what it was worth. “I feel the price difference will be justified by eliminating the use of these wells as a source of public drinking water,” one Washington Works supervisor wrote in a memo to colleagues. “We could eliminate any future complaints or concerns about perceived or actual contamination of the aquifer by DuPont.” DuPont later built Lubeck a new well field and ordered employees to destroy all unanalyzed samples from the old one. But it soon discovered that the new wells were contaminated, too. Rather than notify the EPA, as the law required, DuPont devised a testing method that grossly underestimated C8 levels. Reilly, the DuPont attorney, complained in an email at the time that the accuracy was “very poor” and said its readings were off by “a factor of 4 or even 5.”

The documents also showed that the company had been monitoring C8 in Dry Run Creek for years, even as it stonewalled the Tennants. Company insiders had raised concerns about the chemical’s effect on the family’s cows as early as 1991. Still, DuPont let ever-greater quantities of C8 spill into Dry Run. In 1993, after state regulators began asking about the sediment building up on the landfill’s collection ponds, DuPont opened the pond drains, allowing C8-laden sludge to flow freely into the creek. The following year, the company shuttered another landfill and started trucking all of its C8 waste into Dry Run. The levels of the chemical in the creek soared to more than 80 times DuPont’s own internal safety limit. It was around this time that the Tennants’ cattle had started dying off in droves.

After Bilott figured out that C8 was in the water, DuPont began scrambling to get the information out first. In October 2000, a letter went out to the people of Lubeck, informing them that there was C8 in the water. It was printed on Lubeck Public Service District letterhead, but it had been partly written by DuPont officials. The missive also claimed that the C8 levels in the water were within DuPont’s safety guideline—which was only true using the new, less accurate testing method.

In March 2001, Bilott sent the EPA a letter laying out his findings and attaching more than 900 pages of internal DuPont documents. He also invited the Tennants up to Cincinnati and walked them through his findings. All Della could think about was the children who had lived and played on the farm. “It tore me to pieces thinking I had been feeding my kids all of this contaminated meat and taking their Girl Scouts to play in that poison water,” she says. After leaving Bilott’s office, she was rushed to the hospital with heart palpitations.

 

5: The Backlash

Joe Kiger, a local PE teacher and longtime Lubeck resident, was sitting on his patio swing when his wife, Darlene, handed him a letter explaining that there was something called C8 in the water. At first, the letter didn’t strike Kiger as particularly noteworthy. But over the next few weeks, he began wondering about the teenagers in the neighborhood who had developed testicular cancer. He got to thinking about his brother, who had worked at DuPont and died during surgery for ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease, at the age of 21.

Kiger dug the letter out of the pile on his desk and read it over and over. He kept grappling with one sentence: “DuPont has advised the District that it is confident these levels are safe.” He thought, “What the hell does DuPont have to do with my drinking water?’”

Kiger started requesting information from his water district and state environmental officials, but he kept hitting brick walls. Finally, he contacted the EPA and happened to reach an official who was reviewing Bilott’s letter. “He said, ‘Joe, I'm going to send you some information on C8,’” Kiger recalls. “‘I want you to read it very carefully and you'll probably want to contact a lawyer.’” When Kiger went through the file, he felt sick to his stomach. He immediately picked up the phone and called Bilott, who had recently settled the Tennant case for an undisclosed sum. The two discussed filing a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Lubeck residents.

Darlene was initially reluctant to sign on, fearing how the community might react. “We're up against DuPont, for God's sake,” her husband says. “Everybody you talk to or look at has an uncle, brother, cousin—whatever—who is working at DuPont or associated with DuPont in some manner.” Sure enough, after the couple filed the class-action suit in August 2001, friends stopped talking to them. Strangers threw water bottles with homemade C8 labels at their house and called to abuse them. “One man wouldn’t quit shouting at me,” Darlene said. “He kept saying, ‘You’re taking my job away and you’re going to have to feed my kids and pay my bills if DuPont packs up and leaves because of this.’”

Callie Lyons, who catalogued the history of C8 in her book Stain-Resistant, Nonstick, Waterproof, and Lethal, traces the reaction in part to the region’s coal mining roots. For many West Virginians, disease and pollution are simply the price to be paid for economic security. “In the case of DuPont there’s also the perception that they could pack up and go to China at any second, so we’ve got to make them feel welcome,” Lyons said. “If you don’t, you’re not conforming to social norms.”

But as news of the lawsuit spread, people whose lives had been touched by C8 were finally connecting the dots. Robert Griffin, the general manager of the water district in Little Hocking, read about the Kigers' case in the paper. He began hunting for a lab to get its water tested. All four of the town’s wells showed high levels of C8. The chemical was also found to have contaminated at least half a dozen public water supplies, including one 70 miles downriver from Washington Works.

Around this time, a private detective turned up at Sue Bailey’s home in Bluemont, Virginia. He told her about the litigation and explained that he’d been hired by the plaintiffs’ lawyers to find her. “The first thing I thought was, ‘Prayer answered,’” Bailey told me.

Bailey had always blamed Teflon for Bucky’s deformities, which, over the years, had required dozens of excruciating surgeries. Doctors had bored a hole in the bridge of his nose and hooked a wire through it to pull up his sagging eye. They had inserted a saline-filled pouch in his forehead and inflated it to stretch the skin, which, along with along with steel, silicon and bits of his ear and rib, they used to construct the missing half of his nose.

Bucky himself had never been sure about his mother’s theory. But after the visit from the detective, the Baileys attended a town hall meeting about the class-action lawsuit in Parkersburg. Hearing other families talk about the health problems they’d endured and the animals that had died made Bucky think that perhaps his mother was right. “It really felt like a punch in the face,” Bucky told me.

In September 2002, the EPA launched a rare "priority review" of C8—a sign that regulation could be looming. By this point, 3M was shutting down C8 production, and DuPont had begun manufacturing the chemical itself. Perhaps anticipating that its calculations would soon come under scrutiny, DuPont moved to a more accurate system for measuring C8 in groundwater. This was sure to show that C8 levels were higher than DuPont had claimed was safe. “EPA better buckle their seat belts,” Reilly wrote. “We are exceeding the levels we set as our own guideline.” Indeed, the new system found that C8 levels in Little Hocking’s water were 37 times DuPont’s safety threshold.

Still, DuPont had reason to believe it could evade a regulatory crackdown. In late 2001, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection had assembled a team to set a safety threshold for C8. At the time, the department was headed by two lawyers who had previously represented DuPont. Half of the panelists on the C8 team had worked either for DuPont or Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment, a private group that ostensibly conducts independent, peer-reviewed safety evaluations of chemicals. However, according to the Center for Public Integrity, TERA is heavily funded by corporations and industry trade groups, and often determines that its funders’ products are safe at levels many times greater than what the EPA deems harmful.

The following spring, the C8 team announced its findings at a public meeting in Parkersburg: C8-tainted water was safe to drink at concentrations of 150 parts per billion—150 times higher than DuPont’s internal safety guidelines, which had never been made public. When the Department of Environmental Protection’s science advisor, Dr. Dee Ann Staats, finished her presentation, Joe Kiger stood up and asked who had funded the study. Staats eventually admitted that DuPont had put up the money.

After that, Bilott began subpoenaing information on the department’s C8 analysis. He discovered that both Staats and DuPont’s lead toxicologist for C8 were systematically destroying documents about the chemical. (Staats maintains she was following departmental rules on document retention; the department says it had no such agency-wide policy.) West Virginia Circuit Judge George Hill ordered them to stop shredding and hand over the remaining papers. One of the items slated for destruction revealed that the department’s early calculations had actually set the safety limit for C8 closer to 1 part per billion—not 150 parts per billion, the figure announced at the Parkersburg meeting. Staats maintains the initial figure didn’t take all available data into account. But the EPA would later determine even levels of 1 part per billion to be unsafe for human health.

In early 2003, Hill handed the plaintiffs in the class-action suit their first victory—a ruling that C8 was "toxic.” He ordered DuPont to pay for blood tests to measure the plaintiffs’ exposure level. The company was now facing hundreds of millions of dollars in potential damages.

So DuPont brought in a “product defense” firm called the Weinberg Group. Weinberg is best known for helping the tobacco industry recruit scientists to cast doubt on data linking cigarettes to cancer and other disease. But it also has a long history of working with chemical and plastics makers, which it detailed in an April 2003 proposal for DuPont: “Beginning with Agent Orange in 1983, we have successfully guided clients through myriad regulatory, litigation and public relations challenges posed by those whose agenda is to grossly over regulate, extract settlements from, or otherwise damage the chemical manufacturing industry.”

Weinberg’s recommendations included hiring experts on relevant chemicals so that the plaintiffs couldn’t call them as witnesses and “constructing a study to establish not only that [C8] is safe … but that it offers real health benefits.” The firm later started vetting scientists and doctors to work on the C8 issue for DuPont. And DuPont began making sweeping statements about the safety of C8. One company press release claimed that the chemical had been used “for more than 50 years with no known adverse effects to human health."

But the information Bilott and his colleagues had unearthed was simply too damning to suppress. The lawyers had discovered another cover-up involving a grease-repellant chemical called Zonyl that is used in candy wrappers, pizza boxes and countless other food containers. DuPont had long insisted that the substance didn’t migrate into the food, but internal documents showed that it seeped off packaging at levels three times higher than what the FDA regarded as safe—and then broke down into C8. What’s more, while most of the C8 used to make Teflon burned off during production, the DuPont papers showed that it was present in a multitude of household products, from clump-proof kitty litter to dental floss. In early 2004, James Dahlgren, a UCLA toxicologist retained by the class-action plaintiffs, released a study showing that cancer prevalence among Little Hocking residents was “significantly higher” than in the general population.

It was becoming clear that the implications of the lawsuits went far beyond the Tennants or the Kigers or the thousands of residents of the Ohio River Valley. By this time, C8 was being detected everywhere—produce and beef in American grocery stores, polar bears in the Arctic, children in the remote Faeroe Islands. One analysis of blood banks from around the world showed that nearly all of the blood contained C8. The lone exception was a set of archived samples that had been collected from Korean War veterans before 1952.

 

6: The Consequences

In July 2004, the EPA filed a landmark lawsuit, alleging that DuPont had concealed evidence that C8 was harmful to human health and had failed to disclose the contamination of public drinking water for more than two decades. Later that year, Hill unsealed a series of damning emails showing that DuPont’s own lawyers had been urging the company to clean up C8 contamination for years.

John R. Bowman, an in-house counsel for C8 issues, had advised DuPont in 2000 to get Lubeck a source of clean drinking water to limit potential liability. Bowman believed that DuPont was especially vulnerable to punitive damages because C8 took so long to break down. “Our story is not a good one,” he wrote. “We continued to increase our emissions into the river in spite of internal commitments to reduce or eliminate the release of this chemical into the community and the environment because of our concern about the biopersistence.” In a message to his son, Reilly, the DuPont lawyer, blasted the company’s handling of the C8 issue as “a debacle at best.” “Very poor leadership,” he continued, “the worst I have seen in the face of a serious issue since I have been with DuPont.”

By September 2004, DuPont had agreed to settle the Kigers’ class-action lawsuit, which now included more than 80,000 plaintiffs, for up to $374 million. The company promised to install filtration systems in contaminated water districts and put $70 million into a health and education project to benefit community residents. It also agreed to fund a $30 million health study, juried by independent, court-appointed epidemiologists, to evaluate the health effects of C8.

Despite all of this, it was far from clear that DuPont would be held accountable for its actions. The following year, the company agreed to pay the EPA $16.5 million to settle charges against it. This was the largest fine in the agency’s history—and yet it was a pittance compared to the $1 billion a year in revenue DuPont was earning from products containing C8. And under the terms of the settlement, the company wasn’t even obliged to pull C8 from the market. Since the Toxic Substances Control Act makes it extremely difficult for the EPA to ban chemicals, the best the agency could negotiate was a voluntary phase-out by 2015.

Moreover, DuPont was only required to clean up drinking water in communities where C8 levels exceeded the EPA’s safety limit of 0.4 parts per billion. (A recent study concluded that even this figure may be more than 100 times too high.) The water in Parkersburg, where most of the plaintiffs lived, initially fell just below that threshold. Subsequent tests would find that the level was actually above the cutoff. But DuPont refused to install a filtration system there, and a West Virginia federal judge ruled that it wasn’t obliged to do so.

As for the thousands of residents with health problems that they believed had been caused by C8, they could only seek individual compensation if the DuPont-funded epidemiological study found probable links between the chemical and their diseases. Establishing such links required much larger pools of data than are normally collected in a single rural community. This conundrum weighed heavily on attorney Harry Deitzler, who lives in Parkersburg and serves as a local liaison to plaintiffs. “I knew the reason DuPont settled the case and agreed to assign this panel of epidemiologists was because they didn’t think they were ever in this lifetime going to find links,” Deitzler told me. “But I didn’t want to face people and say, ‘Hey, we got this huge settlement and everybody only gets 600 bucks.’”

Then one night, a solution came to him. “It was like God reached out from the sky and tapped into my brain,” he recalls. The plaintiffs would use the $70 million health and education fund from the settlement to pay people $400 each to participate in the epidemiological study. Deitzler knew that Appalachian residents wouldn’t take kindly to outsiders probing into their health. So he asked a prominent local hospital administrator named Art Maher and a retired doctor named Paul Brooks to run the program. The pair launched a company called Brookmar and got court approval to administer the effort. Within months, they hired more than 100 employees and built online registration and data-tracking systems. They also placed construction trailers with customized reception areas and soundproof exam rooms at four accessible locations, and advertised heavily on local radio and TV.

The response was overwhelming. Tens of thousands of people piled into pickup trucks, church buses and minivans to make the pilgrimage to Brookmar’s trailers. “We have families of five dragging their three kids kicking and screaming, and the parents are saying, ‘Yes, you’re going to get stuck in the arms—that’s $2,000!’” one local said.

By the time the project wrapped up in the summer of 2006, roughly 80 percent of residents in affected water districts had participated. This made it far more likely that the panel of epidemiologists would be able to correlate C8 exposure with particular diseases. “I think it messed up a lot of people at DuPont’s lives that we devised this wild system,” Brooks told me. “These hillbillies threw a rock in DuPont’s machine.”

When the C8 Science Panel finally released its findings in 2012, it found a “probable link” between the chemical and six conditions: testicular cancer, liver cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, high cholesterol and pregnancy-induced hypertension—a potentially life-threatening condition that can cause seizures, kidney failure, miscarriage and birth defects. Plaintiffs with these ailments are now entitled to file individual liability lawsuits against DuPont. More than 3,500 Ohio Valley residents have already brought cases, the first of which will go to trial in September.

Among the plaintiffs is Kenton Wamsley, the DuPont lab worker who was assigned to test C8 in the early 1980s. His complaint cites two C8-linked conditions: high cholesterol and ulcerative colitis. However, these diagnoses don’t begin to describe the extent of his suffering.

The crippling stomach cramps and anal bleeding that plagued him during his early days as a tester eventually grew so bad that he had to undergo surgery to remove intestinal blockages, a common complication of ulcerative colitis. After that, his stomach problems eased, but he developed severe asthma and was unable to work for long stretches of time. Other C8 testers also started falling ill: Wamsley recalls one coworker bleeding heavily from his tongue in the lab. By 2001, Wamsley's stomach cramps and rectal bleeding had returned, and he was diagnosed with intestinal cancer.

In June, I visited Wamsley just outside Parkersburg at his faded clapboard bungalow, which is cluttered with crosses and silk flowers. He hobbled to the bedroom, clutching his distended stomach, and returned carrying a dog-eared Bible with grainy images of his tumor-filled colon tucked inside. After the cancer diagnosis, Wamsley had struggled through chemotherapy. “During the second round, my teeth started to really fall apart,” he told me, fingering the yellow stumps in his gum. But the tumors only shrank slightly. His doctor informed him that he’d be dead within months unless he had his colon and anus surgically removed. Wamsley opted for surgery.

The cancer is now gone, but he still suffers from asthma, fatigue, insomnia, prostate problems, chronic pain and diarrhea so severe that he’s afraid to leave his house. “This thing blew up with the diarrhea in a car one day,” he told me, pointing to the colostomy bag bulging through his shirt. “It’s made me scared to go even to the grocery store. I want to go to church, but what if I have an accident in there?”

Despite everything he has been through, Wamsley does consider himself fortunate in one respect: He is the only designated C8 tester who is still alive. “It looks like DuPont might have known this chemical was dangerous and used some of us as guinea pigs,” he says. “I believe God kept me alive to tell their stories.”

 

7: The New C8

When I met Joe and Darlene Kiger this summer, Joe was carrying the bulging satchel of C8 papers that he refers to as his “Bible.” He takes it everywhere, even on family vacations. Because, despite winning a historic lawsuit against formidable odds, the fight is far from over. These days, Joe is pouring his energies into a new organization, Keep Your Promises, which aims to ensure that DuPont fulfills its obligations to the local community. It is proving to be a daunting mission.

Under the class-action settlement, DuPont was required to pay for a medical monitoring program to regularly screen locals for the conditions that the science panel linked to C8. The plaintiff’s attorneys wanted Brookmar to administer this program. Instead, DuPont maneuvered to have it run by Michael Rozen, then a partner at the New York law firm Feinberg Rozen, which administered the fund to settle claims arising from BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Multiple Gulf Coast residents have sued Feinberg Rozen, accusing it of delaying payment for as long as possible and then offering financially desperate claimants a fraction of the money they were entitled to.

Kiger and others believe that Rozen is deploying a similar strategy in his work for DuPont. Rozen kicked off the monitoring program with two town hall meetings at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. on a Friday, when many people in this blue-collar community were working. Residents also say that enrollment packets are unnecessarily complicated, and that people who do manage to enroll are sometimes billed for testing that DuPont is supposed to cover. So far, few people have taken part. As of January 2015, DuPont had paid Feinberg Rozen about $9 million to administer the program, but only $50,000 had been spent on medical claims.

Brooks believes DuPont wants the program to fail. “They poisoned the world,” he says. “A successful medical monitoring program would give us much better data on the links between this chemical and various diseases, and DuPont would have so much liability that it couldn’t possibly compensate everyone.”

Rozen bristles at these allegations, and says that he has done his best to encourage participation. He also stresses that some of the plaintiffs have died or moved away in the decade since the settlement was reached. “The benefit that is being provided to the class is exactly what was prescribed and then some, by the parties themselves in their negotiated settlement,” he told me.

Meanwhile, this past July, DuPont spun off its specialty chemicals division into a separate company called Chemours. The new enterprise will assume the liability for DuPont’s most polluted sites, including Washington Works—but it will only have one-quarter of DuPont’s revenue. Many people with cases pending against DuPont worry that it will use this arrangement to avoid paying damages or, at the very least, stall any resulting payouts. “I’m sure part of their theory is the longer they delay, the more people will die,” said Deitzler, the Parkersburg-based lawyer. “It’s already worked. Before we could even file cases, many of the people who’ve been affected passed on.”

(DuPont declined to answer questions for this story because of the pending individual liability litigation. But it issued a statement which read, in part: “DuPont has met and will continue to meet its obligations under the [settlement], including the provision of medical monitoring for local residents and water filtration systems in six area water districts … DuPont and Chemours remain committed to fulfilling all of their environmental and legal obligations in accordance with existing local, state and federal regulatory guidelines.”)

Even today, large swaths of the community remain loyal to DuPont—and resentful of people like the Kigers. “A lot of people want to blow us off as money-hungry vultures," Joe Kiger told me with an air of resignation. At this point, he excused himself to go to the restroom for the third time during our two-hour interview. “It’s been like this since he got out of the hospital,” Darlene explained. When I asked what she meant, her eyes widened. “Oh, he didn’t tell you? He had a heart attack six weeks ago.”

Even in his hospital bed, she told me, Joe was fielding phone calls and visits from people with C8-linked diseases. “He never gets a break from it, and it worries me—even today, meeting with you, I'm afraid, because of the backlash,” she said, bursting into tears. “It's been so many years of watching this thing eat at him every single day, and I wonder, is it ever going to end?”

This same question haunts the Tennants. In recent years, nearly every member of the family has struggled with serious health problems. Della suffers from high cholesterol, thyroid problems, heart disease and severe osteoarthritis. Her young daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 37, and later developed thyroid cancer and gall bladder disease. Jim’s brother, Earl, suffered from numerous ailments before dying of a heart attack in 2009. Earl’s wife later succumbed to cancer.

 

In one way, the battle with DuPont has paid off: Last year, the company finally phased out C8. “This is something that affects the entire world,” Deitzler marveled. “And if it weren’t for the Tennants raising a stink, and Rob Bilott discovering that piece of paper, and Paul Brooks and Art Maher doing what they did to collect all that data, nothing would have changed. DuPont probably would have kept putting it up in the air, putting it in the water and everywhere in the world people would be getting more kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease. Your blood levels are lower because of the people in this community.”

But C8 can take decades to break down in the human body. It will continue pumping through our veins long after it disappears from assembly lines. Meanwhile, to replace C8, DuPont has simply turned to other closely related substances, such as perfluorohexanoic acid, or C6.

Under the current regulatory system, DuPont is not required to ensure that these chemicals are free of the qualities that made C8 so toxic. While relatively little is known about these substances, most of them have very similar structures and properties to C8, and the limited information that is available reveals troubling effects. Also, while some of the replacement chemicals break down faster than C8 does, they need to be used in larger quantities to achieve the same results, a fact that has caused alarm in the scientific community. This May, 200 scientists—chemists, toxicologists, and epidemiologists among them—signed a statement urging governments to restrict the use of these chemicals because of the “risks of adverse effects on human health and the environment.”

Until that happens, these substances will continue to spread, unchecked. Not long ago, the Little Hocking water district commissioned a study to see whether any of the C8 replacements were contaminating the town’s aquifer. Researchers tested worms unearthed from Little Hocking’s well field, a scraggly meadow overlooking the vast expanse of storage tanks and smokestacks at the Washington Works plant. They found a number of C8’s chemical cousins, including C5, C6, C7, C9 and C10. Once again, local residents may have been unwittingly exposed to toxins whose ultimate effect on human health is unknown.

“DuPont deceived as many people as they could deceive as for as long as they could,” Jim Tennant told me. “Now that their secrets are out and they’ve been forced to clean up the water, they’re starting again with a new set of chemicals. This isn’t a fight that will be won in my lifetime.”

http://highline.huffingtonpost.com/articles/en/welcome-to-beautiful-parkersburg/

Investigative Report Released Ahead of C-8 Injury Trials

West Virginia Public Broadcasting
By Glynis Board

“The Teflon Toxin” is the title of a series of three investigative reports that surfaced this month. The series examines the 70-year history of DuPont and the no-stick chemical called C8 used to coat Teflon pans and other products.

A decade ago it came to light that DuPont contaminated water sources in West Virginia and Ohio with the chemical, and soon after that the chemical is toxic. The use of the C8 was phased out of production this year at DuPont’s Washington Works plant just outside Parkersburg. But this September, the first of about 3,500 personal injury claims is coming to trial.

That’s one reason the investigative series was just published.

The 60-year C8 Chemical Leak

While studying C8 contamination problems in New Jersey Lerner discovered the extensive history in West Virginia and Ohio. Her story grew from one to three reports:

DuPont and the Chemistry of Deception

The Case Against DuPont

How DuPont Slipped Past the EPA

DuPont is one of eight companies responsible for C8 contamination throughout the United States. Lerner goes into great detail about how DuPont’s own scientists first discovered health threats posed by C8 in the 50s and 60s.

Her report includes links and excerpts from internal company memos. Company communications are becoming public as court documents are filed in the lead-up to the personal injury trials that begin this September in Columbus, Ohio.

 

This is video footage taken by Wilber Tennant in the late '90s. It’s included in the series of articles published by an online investigative publication called The Intercept. Journalist Sharon Lerner remembers going through the four hours of footage while she researched the history of C8 contamination by DuPont in West Virginia and Ohio.

“Tennant went around his property and documented the effect of this chemical on his cows but also on wildlife," Lerner said. "You can see over time the way his water changes and thickens, and the way his animals get sicker and sicker and then all die.”

Lerner reports that there are still no specific federal C8 regulations. This despite the fact that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has documented that 99.7 percent of Americans have the chemical in their bloodstream.

“Indeed, there is voluminous, and repetitive, correspondence about C8 between the agency and the lawyer. In 2010, the agency responded to his urging to set a national drinking water level with a promise that it would do so by the end of that year. Then, in 2011, the agency promised to set the level by the end of that year. And, again, in a February 2012 letter, the EPA claimed it would take action in the “next few months” or by “early 2013.”

A February 23, 2015 letter from Susan Hedman, a regional administrator of the EPA, has a similar ring, saying that a lifetime health advisory may be developed “later this year,” at which point the agency might just possibly reevaluate its 2009 consent order with DuPont.”

“There are more than 6 million people in the US who now have c8 in their drinking water above .02 parts per billions which is probably enough to cause significant health effects,” Lerner said.

The European Union banned C8 and this year proposed a global ban, Lerner reports, but it’s still being produced today in India, Russia, and China. She says in the U.S., C8 in cookware, clothing, and food wrappers is now being replaced by other chemicals. Public knowledge about these new chemicals is limited.

“The way we regulate chemicals, or I should say the way we don’t regulate chemicals in really the central problem here.”

Heroes

Lerner says one big personal discovery she’s come away with is the realization that a string of community heroes, as she calls them, are responsible for DuPont and other companies being forced to address the problem of C8.

“It’s like a bucket brigade,” she said “one brave moment to another. It was one person after another bringing it forward.”

Cleanup

Lerner reports DuPont saw 95 million dollars in profits every day last year, but still the company has taken steps to protect against potential cleanup fallout by spinning off its chemical division into a separate company called Chemours.

“DuPont has promised to cover whatever settlements result from the crop of personal injury claims,” Lerner reports, “but, if they’re ever levied, clean-up costs for the C8 DuPont leaked into the larger environment, which could add up to many billions of dollars, could fall to Chemours, a much smaller company.”

Messages from DuPont

Lerner’s article did include some responses from DuPont. She included segments of court statements where the company denies all wrongdoing, saying injuries were acts of God and that the company “neither knew, nor should have known, that any of the substances ... were hazardous.” DuPont also issued a statement just prior to the article being published that defends its relationship with the Environmental Protection Agency -- a relationship that Lerner’s report casts some doubt on.

http://wvpublic.org/post/investigative-report-released-ahead-c-8-injury-trials

THE TEFLON TOXIN: How DuPont Slipped Past the EPA

The Intercept_
By Sharon Lerner

MIKE ROMINE GREW UP in Blennerhasset, West Virginia, not far from DuPont’s Parkersburg plant. Throughout his childhood and young adulthood, Romine was probably exposed through his drinking water to C8, a slippery, soap-like chemical used to make Teflon pans and Stainmaster carpet and hundreds of other products. His home was served by the Lubeck water district, one of six districts near the plant later found to be severely contaminated with the chemical, but his greatest exposure to C8 almost certainly came from working at the DuPont plant, where he was a welding inspector.

Romine spent some of his time in the company’s Teflon division, and he particularly remembers taking part in the “Teflon shut down,” a spring-time ritual. For a few days each year, the company would shut down operations in the plant to prepare for the coming year. Romine helped install new piping. He didn’t know what C8 was at the time, but there was a white powdery substance dusting many of the surfaces in the plant. “It’s on the pipe, on the inside of it,” said Romine. “You don’t all the time have on gloves. It’s on your coveralls.”

Twelve years ago, when Romine was 58, he was diagnosed with kidney cancer. No one in his family had ever suffered from this rare disease. Surgeons removed the cancerous organ, leaving Romine with reduced kidney function. Now he has to urinate frequently and his doctors have suggested that he change his diet and refrain from running, an activity that had been a regular part of his life before the surgery. Every six months he must return to the doctor to have his remaining kidney checked.

Today, Romine has mixed feelings about DuPont. He worked for the company full-time as a contractor for eight years, and his best friend was employed in one of DuPont’s labs. “In my heart, I felt I was DuPont,” said Romine, who has enduring respect for the company. “DuPont has really good safety rules, good people, good personnel,” he said. “I enjoyed working down there.”

Still, for all the good DuPont has done his community as an employer and as a supporter of local organizations and sports teams, Romine is concerned that the company has not been fully honest — especially after a panel of scientists, funded by a class-action settlement, found that kidney cancer and five other diseases had been strongly linked to C8 exposure. “DuPont made me money,” he said, “but I certainly think now they needed to come clean with whatever happened.”

 

IN MARCH 2001, an attorney named Robert Bilott embarked on an ambitious plan to force DuPont to come clean — to tell what it knew about C8 and, he hoped, eliminate the chemical from the water consumed by Romine and others throughout the country. Bilott sent packages of evidence to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, and the Attorney General of the United States, among other regulators. Inside were more than 100 documents he had received through discovery in a lawsuit he had filed in 1999 on behalf of a West Virginia farmer named Wilbur Tennant, whose cows died after being exposed to PFOA, also called C8 because of the eight-carbon chain that makes up its chemical backbone. The documents showed that DuPont, which since the early 1950s had used C8 to manufacture Teflon and other products in its Parkersburg plant, had known for years that C8 posed health dangers and had spread beyond the company’s West Virginia plant into local sources of drinking water.

Bilott even arranged to go to Washington, D.C., to personally present his findings to the EPA. When DuPont attorneys learned about Bilott’s plan, they tried to stop him with a last-minute gag order. They were unsuccessful, however, as Bernard Reilly, one of the company’s in-house lawyers, noted in an email to his son on March 27, 2001:

Court yesterday did not agree to shut up plaintiff lawyer in our Parkersburg situation and today he testifies an EPA hearing and will try to slam us one more time.

Bilott did make his case to the federal regulators and reiterated the request he made in the letter that accompanied his evidence, that the agency regulate C8 under the Toxic Substances Control Act “on the grounds that it ‘may be hazardous to human health and the environment.’”

By some measures, Bilott has in fact been successful in slamming DuPont, but 14 years after he sent his evidence to the EPA, the company has managed to avoid a full reckoning for its actions. And C8, which is in the bloodstream of 99.7 percent of Americans, remains unregulated at the national level.

During the five decades in which DuPont used and profited from C8, the company had only infrequently discussed the chemical with environmental authorities, and it kept most of its extensive internal research on the chemical confidential. After Bilott sent out his packages of evidence, however, DuPont’s relationships to government agencies shifted dramatically. Bilott’s revelations had the power to tarnish the company’s reputation and lead to huge legal and cleanup costs, so DuPont focused on weathering the scrutiny of regulators and keeping its name — and profits — unscathed.

Although Bilott and his clients eventually prevailed in a ground-breaking class-action lawsuit filed the same year he approached the EPA, that settlement had limited applicability. Action by the EPA could hold DuPont accountable nationally.

Locally, the matter was well in hand. Several regulators at the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection had already shown their allegiance to the company, one of the state’s biggest employers. In October 1996, after the regional office of the EPA began investigating a complaint about one of the company’s landfills, Eli McCoy, the director of the West Virginia DEP, allegedly sent the company a document “to aid DuPont in diffusing any potential enforcement action,” as Bilott put it in a letter to the EPA. After a few weeks of negotiation, the West Virginia DEP signed off on a consent decree, in exchange for a mere $200,000 penalty and minor upgrades from DuPont. McCoy then went to work for a consulting firm DuPont hired to help it comply with that agreement.

He wasn’t the only regulator who followed the money. As Callie Lyons reported in her 2007 book, Stain-Resistant, Nonstick, Waterproof, and Lethal, three attorneys handling C8 at the West Virginia DEP emerged on the other side of the revolving door as employees of the same local law firm that defended the chemical on behalf of DuPont. Reached for comment, McCoy said that he did not recall details of the matter, noting that he had not worked for the West Virginia DEP for 18 years.

The EPA presented a potentially more challenging situation. The federal agency has the authority to regulate C8 under several laws, including the Toxic Substances Control Act and the Clean Water Act. Through either route, regulation could trigger hefty cleanup costs. In 2002, the EPA initiated what is called a “priority review,” a critical first step toward regulation, which entails assessing a chemical’s risk to determine whether it should restrict or ban it. The EPA puts a special priority on chemicals that are toxic, persist in the environment, and accumulate in people’s bodies. C8 fit the bill on all three counts.

In response, DuPont assembled a high-powered team that included former EPA officials to oversee its C8 communications with the federal agency. Michael McCabe, a consultant who managed the company’s communications and C8 strategy with the EPA starting in 2003, had served as deputy administrator of the agency until 2001. Linda Fisher, a lawyer who succeeded him in the No. 2 position at the EPA, was also central to DuPont’s C8 campaign. In fact, just over a year after leaving the agency in June 2003, Fisher was already deeply involved in the defense of C8. It surely didn’t hurt that William Reilly, who led the EPA from 1989 to 1993, sat on DuPont’s board of directors.

DuPont’s C8 team benefited from inside information about what regulators were thinking about the chemical, according to testimony McCabe gave when he was deposed in 2007. They knew what was in some of the agency’s documents before they became public and saw at least one presentation before it was given. The DuPont team even drafted quotes to be attributed to EPA officials, which DuPont later embedded in press releases. In his deposition, McCabe said the practice of asking the EPA for a quote was “customary.”

Several other firms also served as consultants, including a company called the Weinberg Group. In an April 2003 memo, P. Terrence Gaffney, the group’s vice president for product defense, proposed “a fresh new approach” to help DuPont with its defense of C8:

The constant theme which permeates our recommendations on the issues faced by DuPont is that DUPONT MUST SHAPE THE DEBATE AT ALL LEVELS. We must implement a strategy at the outset which discourages governmental agencies, the plaintiff’s bar, and misguided environmental groups from pursuing this matter any further than the current risk assessment contemplated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the matter pending in West Virginia. We strive to end this now.

The memo bragged that the company had long experience in managing chemical PR crises. “Beginning with Agent Orange in 1983,” Gaffney wrote, “we have successfully guided clients through myriad regulatory, litigation, and public relations challenges.” Weinberg’s proposal included using “focus groups of mock jurors to determine the best ‘themes’ for defense verdicts,” retaining “leading scientists to consult on the range of issues involving PFOA so as to develop a premium expert panel,” and efforts to “reshape the debate by identifying likely known health benefits of PFOA exposure by … constructing a study to establish not only that PFOA is safe … but that it offers real health benefits.”

The “Weinberg memo” gained a level of infamy when a copy was made public in 2006. Two years later, Rep. John Dingell of Michigan brought it up in a Congressional investigation, noting, “The tactics apparently employed by the Weinberg Group raise serious questions about whether science is for sale at these consulting groups.” DuPont, which has asked the judge in the upcoming trials to exclude any mention of the Weinberg Group, denied that it hired the consulting company to work on C8. But court documents, including invoices (one of which mentions PFOA specifically), suggest otherwise. Two years later, the Weinberg Group again offered its services to DuPont and in an email made reference to “the C8/fluorocarbon chemicals controversy” and noted that “the Weinberg Group which offers services in evidence-based advocacy was given some discrete assignments in developing strategies for helping DuPont in its advocacy.” Reached by telephone, Matthew Weinberg, the CEO of the Weinberg Group, declined to comment, but then added: “The Weinberg Group is no longer engaged in any of this work. We’re an FDA consulting firm.”

ALTHOUGH THE EPA is specifically charged with the task of protecting the public by reducing the risk of exposure to commercial chemicals, the agency is also limited in what it can require of industry. Unlike the Food and Drug Administration, which reviews prescription medications before they can be brought to market, the EPA has little power to prevent a company from using a chemical before it is proven to be safe. Although in Europe chemicals must be proven safe before they are put on the market, in the United States — despite repeated revelations that widely used industrial chemicals (including PCBs, fire retardants, and many others) have severe public health and environmental effects — chemical manufacturers have few legal obligations to ensure that their products are safe. In America, killer chemicals are essentially innocent until proven guilty.

Another conundrum of our chemical regulatory system is that regulators must depend on the manufacturers for data on the chemicals they wish to regulate. Yet this information can be difficult to obtain, precisely because the chemicals are unregulated. To move forward with the priority review of the chemical it had begun in 2002, the EPA needed to know how polluted with C8 were the water, air, soil, plants, animals, humans, and food sources near the DuPont plant in West Virginia.

DuPont and other companies that used C8, including Daikin, 3M, and Dyneon, quickly volunteered to provide the information. The companies came up with several research proposals and then together, represented by an entity called the Fluoropolymers Manufacturers Group, lobbied the EPA to make the agreement regarding the chemical completely voluntary. Among the alleged benefits of the voluntary option were “quicker implementation” and that “monitoring data can be obtained sooner,” members of the manufacturers group argued at a January 2004 meeting with the EPA. Of course, the problem with a voluntary agreement is that it would be unenforceable.

Without a legally binding agreement, the EPA was unable to enforce the terms of its interactions with DuPont. Mostly, the agency relied on negotiated consent agreements. If DuPont didn’t like the terms, it could simply walk away from the deal. In one of these agreements, a regional consent order dated March 2002, DuPont agreed to provide clean water to residents near its plant whose drinking water was contaminated above a certain level. Despite the fact that the company had set its own internal safety limit for the maximum amount of C8 in drinking water at 1 part per billion (ppb), in the consent order the company agreed only to a limit of 14 ppb. Two months later, that “trigger level” was raised to 150 ppb, where it stayed until 2006.

While it was pressing for an unenforceable national agreement, DuPont was also negotiating the future of C8. When its legal troubles concerning C8 had first begun, the company had clearly banked on continuing to use C8, as evidenced by its 2002 decision to invest $23 million in a facility to produce it. But by 2005, after DuPont settled the class-action suit over water contamination around its West Virginia plant, according to the sworn testimony of McCabe, the company told regulators it was open to the possibility of phasing out C8.

On this front, too, the company set the terms. In an October 2005 meeting with the EPA, McCabe presented a slide about the company’s “critical needs,” among them that “EPA restate safety of products and no health effects.” McCabe also asked the EPA to make a public statement acknowledging DuPont’s leadership in withdrawing C8, and to ensure that all the other companies using the product also be required to retire it.

Around this time, DuPont reached out to the Bush White House, as emails that emerged in discovery showed. McCabe admitted in a deposition that DuPont wanted to let the EPA know that the Bush administration was supportive of its proposal. McCabe, in his deposition, said that such contacts were “not unusual.”

PERHAPS IT IS ALSO not unusual that all of the company’s pending questions around C8 — whether the company would be fined for withholding information about the chemical from the government; whether it would retire its chemical; and whether it would be subject to binding regulation by the EPA — were resolved in a matter of months, shortly after the contacts between DuPont and the White House.

A month after the company finalized its voluntary commitment to research the extent of contamination around its West Virginia plant, the EPA resolved the matter of the fine. The settlement reached that month stemmed from DuPont’s unlawful failure to alert the EPA about information regarding its risk to human health. Specifically, the company withheld what it knew about the toxicity of C8, the presence of C8 in drinking water, the presence of C8 in the blood of people living near its West Virginia plant, and in the babies of some of its female workers, two of whom were born with birth defects.

At the time, the EPA trumpeted the fact that its $10.5 million fine of DuPont was “the largest civil administrative penalty EPA has ever obtained under any federal environmental statute.” The settlement also required the company to spend $6 million on “supplemental environmental projects.” Less remarked upon was the fact that the fine was a small fraction of the maximum $300 million the agency technically could have collected.

The total $16.5 million penalty was an even smaller fraction of the $1.6 billion in quarterly sales that DuPont’s performance materials division was enjoying at that time — less, in fact, than the division’s sales in a single day.

The following month, DuPont finalized the specifics of its one significant concession: to participate in what the EPA called a “global stewardship program,” which in practice meant a 95 percent reduction in C8 emissions by 2010 and eliminating use of the chemical by 2015. In January 2006, Susan Stalnecker, a DuPont vice president, sent a letter to Stephen Johnson, then head of the EPA, confirming the agreement and alluding to DuPont’s plan to replace C8 with another chemical, noting that “success in this effort will depend on timely review and approvals for these new products.”

As McCabe’s deposition shows, the plan was carried out according to the company’s specific terms. As DuPont had requested, the EPA invited the seven other companies that used C8, including 3M, to also participate in the stewardship program, and all agreed to reduce their emissions and phase it out. And, as DuPont had requested, the EPA issued reassuring statements about C8 and the products that contained it. On January 25, 2006, in the announcement of the global stewardship program, the agency said that “to date EPA is not aware of any studies specifically relating current levels of PFOA exposure to human health effects.” On the same day, DuPont issued a press release containing the agency’s statement.

Five days later, a draft report by an EPA Science Advisory Board that was reviewing C8 found the chemical to be a “likely human carcinogen.” DuPont vice president Susan Stalnecker sent an email to her team:

Publicity around SAB report has linked the Teflon brand to cancer. Coverage has been broad in print and network media. Significant disruptions in our markets and are [sic] consumers are very, very concerned.

What’s telling about the email is the company’s attitude toward the EPA and its assumption that of course the agency would cooperate in the damage-control campaign.

In our opinion, the only voice that can cut through the negative stories, is the voice of EPA. We need EPA … to quickly (like first thing tomorrow) say the following: Consumer products sold under the Teflon brand are safe.

According to a February 17, 2006, email from Susan Stalnecker to DuPont CEO Charles Holliday, Linda Fisher then contacted Marcus Peacock at the EPA and expressed DuPont’s concerns about the need for the EPA to make a statement. That February, a group of high-profile health ethicists and epidemiologists hired by DuPont to consult on C8 advised the company against making any further public statements denying that C8 poses a risk to human health.

On March 2, 2006, the EPA obligingly issued another statement saying, “The agency does not believe that consumers need to stop using their cookware, clothing, or other stick-resistant, stain-resistant products.” The agency’s own research has since shown that consumer products are in fact a source of C8 exposure. While Teflon-coated pans appear to account for only a small amount of Americans’ C8 exposure, other consumer products, such as coatings for stain-resistant carpets, floor wax, and upholstery, are greater sources of contamination, according to a 2009 EPA analysis of 116 consumer products.

McCabe, in his December 2007 deposition, insisted that the highly favorable public statements by the EPA were “not a quid pro quo” for the company’s agreeing to phase out C8.

The Intercept requested comment from McCabe and Fisher but received no reply. Stalnecker did not respond to emails requesting comment. The EPA declined to comment on the suggestion that it had engaged in a quid pro quo with DuPont. In a statement (see below), DuPont asserted that Fisher “has never represented DuPont on PFOA matters with the EPA.”

DuPont has phased out the use of C8, but in other respects the company simply failed to live up to its end of the bargain. DuPont did file three reports about C8 contamination in air, water, soil, and biota around its Parkersburg plant in 2008. But a team of independent peer reviewers found that these reports suffered from “significant limitations and omissions” and asked the company to fill in several gaps. Among dozens of additional requests, the reviewers asked DuPont to perform more frequent and extensive sampling of the Ohio River; to expand the 2-mile area where it was measuring the impact of C8 exposure; and to provide more data on the presence of C8 in local water, soil, air, fish, game, and meat, and in the blood and breast milk of residents in the area of the plant. DuPont then revised its report, but the EPA again requested that extensive additional research be done in 2010.

In 2011, the EPA reiterated the need for more data, noting in particular that the company did not test milk from cows in contaminated areas. The next year, without fulfilling many of the reviewers’ outstanding requests, DuPont submitted what it said would be the final version of the report it had promised under the voluntary agreement it had reached with the EPA in 2005. At the time the agreement was hammered out, proponents had noted that it would be public — and, as such, that people would know if the company failed to keep its promises. But little public mention was made when DuPont submitted in November 2012 its final report that was supposed to help with monitoring C8. Without any legal recourse, the EPA quietly filed it away, and a national standard for C8 contamination in drinking water was never set.

MEANWHILE, REGULATORS in New Jersey were waging their own battle against C8. Back in 2006, the state began to consider setting a drinking water standard for the chemical. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection knew there was some contamination around a DuPont plant in Deepwater, a community about 20 miles down the Delaware River from Philadelphia. In September 2003, groundwater tests under the plant had revealed C8 levels as high as 46.6 ppb. In some workers at the New Jersey plant, in 2007, blood levels were very high; one was measured at 4,400 ppb. According to data from the CDC, blood levels of the chemical in the general U.S. population in 2007 averaged around 4 ppb.

A group of 15 scientists and water experts known as the New Jersey Drinking Water Quality Institute was responsible for proposing drinking water standards in the state. Their task was clearly laid out by New Jersey law: to determine maximum contaminant levels, including the exact amount of a chemical that, when drunk by a million people over their lifetimes, causes no more than one case of cancer. For more than 20 years, the institute had been crunching numbers to arrive at the maximum allowable level of a given contaminant and then submitting the figure to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. During most of that time, the group had carried out its charge with little intervention and even less fanfare.

Eileen Murphy, head of the Division of Science, Research and Technology at the New Jersey DEP, was closely studying C8 at the time and was invited, along with members of her staff, to meet with DuPont executives.

Murphy was investigating whether C8 was dangerous. The EPA had already classified the chemical as a likely human carcinogen — a term applied to chemicals that cause tumors in more than one species — and she knew about numerous studies that indicated it to be toxic. She said as much at the meeting. Murphy and the DuPont representatives then “disagreed widely over the interpretation of the toxicology studies,” Murphy remembered recently. “They said our interpretation was overly conservative.” Afterward, “we never heard from them again,” Murphy said. “They just went higher than us. And liked that path better.”

In 2007 the Drinking Water Quality Institute came up with the figure for C8 and sent it to the New Jersey DEP. The proposed standard was .04 ppb.

When DuPont learned about the proposal, a tiny fraction of the level the company had helped West Virginia set a few years before, McCabe and his communications team went to work. If the proposed safety level were enacted, the company could face enormous cleanup and liability costs. McCabe drafted letters arguing that New Jersey’s numbers were far too low and sent them to the commissioner of New Jersey DEP, the governor’s office, and the state’s Economic Development Office.

DuPont representatives later came to subsequent meetings at the New Jersey DEP, to which Murphy was no longer invited. Not long after, in October 2008, Murphy was preparing to submit for peer review an article about C8 in New Jersey water systems that one of her colleagues had written, when Lisa Jackson, who was then New Jersey’s DEP commissioner, asked her to stop its progress toward publication. The article explained the agency’s logic for setting .04 as a safety standard and noted that it had already detected C8 above that level in five drinking water systems.

“I did it anyway,” Murphy recalled in an interview this past spring. “I was reassigned after that.” Indeed, shortly after Murphy submitted the articlefor peer review, she was relieved of her position as division head, in which she had managed a team of PhD scientists like herself. Instead, Murphy was given a post with few responsibilities and in the months before she left the agency filled her time by working on low-level projects and helping the secretaries with their typing. Lisa Jackson went on to serve as administrator of the federal EPA under Barack Obama. She is currently vice president of environment, policy, and social initiatives for Apple. The Intercept left repeated messages for Lisa Jackson requesting comment and attempted to contact her via email, but received no reply.

In September 2010, the Drinking Water Quality Institute began to move forward with the .04 water standard, nine months after Chris Christie became of governor of New Jersey. Christie had made it clear, with his “red tape commission” and pro-business executive orders, that he was unlikely to pass new regulations. But the Christie administration went even further; not only did it apparently block the proposed standard, it also effectively disbanded the water quality group. Although the institute and its committees had met nearly 50 times in the five years prior, after the September 2010 meeting the group did not convene again for almost four years.

Meanwhile, the New Jersey DEP had created a new body called the Science Advisory Board, to advise on a number of environmental issues, including water quality. In 2011, three DuPont scientists, each of whom have worked on C8, were appointed to the board.

This past spring, the Drinking Water Quality Institute met for only the second time since it attempted to set a C8 standard in 2010 (the first was in 2014). The chair of the recently resurrected group, a toxicology professor named Keith Cooper, told me that he’s committed to setting a new drinking water standard for C8. “These recommendations are for the health and safety of the people of New Jersey,” said Cooper, who added that he would do everything he could to push back if the standards fail to move forward this time around, including bring the matter to the current DEP commissioner, Bob Martin. “First I will meet with Martin and then I will request to meet with Christie.”

But because the last set of proposed regulations never made it into law and have officially sunset, the whole process must begin again, which means at least another year of legal, scientific, and administrative preparations. The process is likely to take much longer. By that point, Christie may no longer be governor, but DuPont will have succeeded in delaying and perhaps permanently deferring its environmental accountability for contaminating New Jersey waters with C8. The Christie administration did not reply to requests for comment.

DESPITE ALL THESE setbacks, it is still not too late for the EPA to regulate C8 and require companies such as DuPont to pay for cleanup costs. Attorney Robert Bilott clearly hasn’t given up on the cause, though there is a certain pathos in the letter he sent the EPA this January, which begins this way:

We first wrote to US EPA and WVDEP in March of 2001 — over 13 years ago — to alert your Agencies to the imminent and substantial threat to human health and the environment posed by the contamination of human drinking water supplies with perfluorooctanoic acid.

Indeed, there is voluminous, and repetitive, correspondence about C8 between the agency and the lawyer. In 2010, the agency responded to his urging to set a national drinking water level with a promise that it would do so by the end of that year. Then, in 2011, the agency promised to set the level by the end of that year. And, again, in a February 2012 letter, the EPA claimed it would take action in the “next few months” or by “early 2013.”

A February 23, 2015 letter from Susan Hedman, a regional administrator of the EPA, has a similar ring, saying that a lifetime health advisory may be developed “later this year,” at which point the agency might just possibly reevaluate its 2009 consent order with DuPont.

Recent testing by the EPA found C8 in 94 water systems serving a total of 6.5 million Americans. The minimum testing level was .02 ppb, which is far greater than new estimates of an approximate safe level in drinking water. If the EPA does ever decide to regulate C8 and set a national drinking water standard, DuPont might still be able to avoid cleanup costs, since the company has now cut its ties with the chemical. In July, DuPont spun off its chemical division into a separate company called Chemours. DuPont has promised to cover whatever settlements result from the crop of personal injury claims scheduled to come to trial in the fall. But, if they’re ever levied, cleanup costs for the C8 DuPont leaked into the larger environment, which could add up to many billions of dollars, could fall to Chemours, a much smaller company.

Over the years, as letters have flown back and forth between lawyers and various agencies, levels of the chemical in human blood throughout the United States appear to be dropping. That is good news for the people whose systems the chemical is exiting — the chemical has a half-life in humans of about four years — though not necessarily for the planet at large, since the chemical isn’t going away. It’s simply being diffused, spreading throughout the world’s water systems.

Meanwhile, as it was dispensing with its C8 problem, DuPont was busy introducing new chemicals to replace the old one. Since at least 2009, the company has been using what it calls the “Capstone” line of surfactants and repellants, which in July became the property of Chemours. The replacement molecules are reported to have a six or fewer fluorinated carbon chain as their base but little more about them is known since their chemical make-up is proprietary. FDA records obtained by the Environmental Working Group show that since 2005 the agency approved at least 10 “fluorochemicals” that could replace C8 in food packaging, though there is little public record of health risk assessments being performed on them.

This spring, an international group of scientists and environmental advocates issued a public warning about these replacement chemicals. The “Madrid Statement,” as it’s called, noted that while the “shorter-chain” chemicals used to replace C8 may not stay in human bodies quite as long, “they are still as environmentally persistent as long-chain substances or have persistent degradation products.” The statement, which has now been signed by hundreds of scientists, continued: “Because some of the shorter-chain PFASs are less effective, larger quantities may be needed to provide the same performance.”

The Madrid Statement called on governments to require companies to conduct more toxicological testing and to make chemical structures public. And this year, after it banned the chemical, the European Union proposed a global ban on C8, which is now being produced in India, Russia, and China.

The United States has yet to set a level that’s safe to drink. As Mike Romine in West Virginia sees it, there is something terribly wrong with letting people be exposed to a chemical that can hurt them.

Such thinking was the basis for the class-action suit targeting the plant in West Virginia where Romine worked and the subsequent settlement requiring DuPont to provide clean water to tens of thousands of people in nearby water districts. In a few weeks, the first of approximately 3,500 personal injury claims resulting from that class action will come to trial in Columbus, Ohio. We may soon know if a jury will hold DuPont accountable for the lives it has forever altered, through chemistry.

But whatever happens in those claims, the overwhelming majority of Americans have also been exposed. So far, no one has offered them any recourse or offered to ensure that their water is safe to drink.

EDITOR’S NOTE: DuPont, asked to respond to the allegations contained in this series, initially declined to comment due to pending litigation.

In previous statements and court filings, however, DuPont has consistently denied that it did anything wrong or broke any laws. In settlements reached with regulatory authorities and in the class-action suit, DuPont has made clear that those agreements were compromise settlements regarding disputed claims and that the settlements did not constitute an admission of guilt or wrongdoing. Likewise, in response to the personal injury claims of Mike Romine, Jeromy Darling, and others, DuPont has rejected all charges of wrongdoing and maintained that their injuries were “proximately caused by acts of God and/or by intervening and/or superseding actions by others, over which DuPont had no control.” DuPont also claimed that it “neither knew, nor should have known, that any of the substances to which Plaintiff was allegedly exposed were hazardous or constituted a reasonable or foreseeable risk of physical harm by virtue of the prevailing state of the medical, scientific and/or industrial knowledge available to DuPont at all times relevant to the claims or causes of action asserted by Plaintiff.”

Before the publication of this article, DuPont provided the following statement:

DuPont has worked collaboratively with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to meet and exceed the Agency’s program requirements on PFOA. We have never requested nor have we received special consideration or treatment from the Agency regarding PFOA.

In 2006, EPA and the eight major companies in the industry, including DuPont, launched the 2010/15 PFOA Stewardship Program, in which companies committed to reduce global facility emissions and product content of PFOA and related chemicals by 95 percent by 2010, and to work toward eliminating emissions and product content by 2015.

Prior to the development and implementation of the PFOA Stewardship Program, EPA posted the following statement on the use of consumer products on the Agency’s website. “The information that EPA has available does not indicate that the routine use of consumer products poses a concern. At present, there are no steps that EPA recommends that consumers take to reduce exposures to PFOA.” The statement is the Agency’s recommendation, and DuPont had no involvement in its development.

With respect to Linda Fisher, for over 30 years, she has served with distinction as a leader in environmental protection, health and safety for the EPA and later for private businesses. Throughout her career, Linda has upheld the highest standards of integrity and ethical behavior, and has fully complied with the EPA’s ethics rules since leaving EPA, and later as DuPont’s Chief Sustainability Officer. In her role as Chief Sustainability Officer Linda was instrumental in helping DuPont design and implement its Global Stewardship Program to ensure the company met its commitments with the EPA. Linda has never represented DuPont on PFOA matters with the EPA.

Our work with the Agency has been and remains transparent, and we have cooperated in every way with the spirit and letter of applicable laws and EPA guidelines.

When contacted by The Intercept for comment, 3M provided the following statement.

In more than 30 years of medical surveillance we have observed no adverse health effects in our employees resulting from their exposure to PFOS or PFOA. This is very important since the level of exposure in the general population is much lower than that of production employees who worked directly with these materials,” said Dr. Carol Ley, 3M vice president and corporate medical director. “3M believes the chemical compounds in question present no harm to human health at levels they are typically found in the environment or in human blood.

Part 1: DuPont and the Chemistry of Deception

Part 2: The Case Against DuPont

This article was reported in partnership with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute.

Ava Kofman and Sheelagh McNeill contributed to this story.

https://theintercept.com/2015/08/20/teflon-toxin-dupont-slipped-past-epa/

Sam Seder Interviews Author of C8 Toxicity Exposé

The Ring of Fire
By KJ McElrath

The founder of DuPont Chemicals, Éleuthère Irénée du Pont de Nemours, left France with his family for the US in 1799, two steps ahead of the guillotine. It might have been far better for the world if that blade had caught up with him. Today, the global corporate behemoth that started out as a gunpowder manufacturer is among the worst corporate polluters on the planet – and we may all wind up suffering the consequences for centuries, if not millennia.

DuPont’s most recent alleged crime against humanity and the planet involves a man-made chemical known as “C8,” or perfluorooctanoic acid. Since it was first developed by 3M in the late 1940s, this toxin has become so ubiquitous that more than 99% of us have it in our bodies. Chemically, it is so stable that it will persist in the environment virtually forever. Removing it is difficult and – of greatest concern to DuPont and its fellow corporate criminals – extremely expensive from a financial standpoint.

Incredibly – but not surprisingly – DuPont knew about the toxicity of C8 as far back as the 1960s. It was in 1961 that tests on mice indicated a link between exposure to the chemical and enlargement of the liver – a sign of toxic exposure. Seven years later, it began showing up in the blood of consumers who had been exposed by contact with products containing C8. Beginning in the 1980s, independent researchers began their own studies on the toxicity of the chemical. However, it was not until 1999 that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began its own investigation after receiving reports of its presence in the environment and its toxicity.

The following spring, 3M, under pressure from the EPA, announced that it would be phasing out the manufacture and use of C8.  DuPont, manufacturer of many products dependent on C8, picked up the proverbial torch and opened its own production facility in Fayetteville, North Carolina, in 2002.

Despite the evidence of C8 toxicity, this chemical has been used in hundreds, if not thousands, of household products, including carpet, upholstery, medical garments, clothing, food containers, dental floss, and teflon-coated cookware. Like asbestos, it has made its way into our food, our water, our soil and our air. While most of us have only trace amounts in our systems, those who have been directly exposed by working at, orliving near a facility producing or using C8, may suffer levels as high as 100 parts per million. According to a study conducted by scientists at Emory University, such people are 300% more likely to develop cancer or chronic kidney disorders (C8 has been shown to concentrate in the kidneys). The chemical has been linked to Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol levels, hypertension in pregnant women, and birth defects.

One of the most appalling aspects of this sordid history: in order to control and enact a ban on such toxic substances, regulators must prove that they are hazardous. In other words, the burden of proof is on the EPA – not the manufacturer. This is one of the major reasons that the production and use of C8 was allowed to continue for so many decades after its toxicity became apparent – and why DuPont denies having done anything illegal. A detailed account of DuPont’s decades-long cover-up, as well as the human costs of C8, is the subject of a new, three-part series, entitled The Teflon Toxin: DuPont and the Chemistry of Deception, by Brooklyn journalist Sharon Lerner.

Ms. Lerner also discusses the story with Ring of Fire’s Sam Seder. See the interview below.

Journalist Sharon Lerner joins Sam to discuss the terrifying human costs of DuPont's "chemistry of deception". The dangerous chemical that almost all Americans are exposed to. The danger of teflon. Internal documents and the history of DuPont's deception.

Judge denies DuPont testimony, expert motions

West Virginia Record
By Jessica Karmasek

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A federal judge, for the most part, denied motions by DuPont asking the court to exclude certain testimony and experts in an ongoing mass tort against the chemical company by Mid-Ohio Valley residents who were exposed to C8 in their drinking water.

Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr. filed two orders: one on Aug. 6, denying and affirming in part a motion to exclude expert opinions related to corporate conduct; and another on Aug. 11, denying a motion to exclude “narrative testimony.”

Both orders were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, weeks after Sargus filed two other orders denying DuPont’s motion for summary judgment and its proposed causation experts.

Sargus, in his Aug. 6 order, ruled that he would not prohibit the plaintiffs’ experts on corporate conduct – six in all – from testifying.

DuPont, in its motion, argued that any expert testimony “offering opinions as to corporate intent and motives, and measuring corporate conduct against internal aspirations and inapplicable ethical standards” is not a proper subject of expert testimony and should be excluded from trial.

The company argued that the plaintiffs’ experts would opine on their characterization of DuPont’s knowledge from reading “uncomplicated” historical documents and then measuring that conduct against various “inapplicable” standards.

DuPont contends doing so is not helpful to the jury and is “misleading, confusing and cumulative of other evidence.”

Sargus disagreed.

“The historical documents to which DuPont refers include the factual record that contains evidence of DuPont’s conduct that began over 50 years ago and involves well over a decade of complex litigation, millions of documents, hundreds of witnesses operating in dozens of different regulatory, scientific and technical fields, including, among others, toxicology, epidemiology, risk assessment, medicine, occupational health, regulatory compliance, public health and chemical industry practices and policies,” the judge wrote in the 37-page order.

But the judge noted that the plaintiffs’ experts – in particular, Dr. Michael B. Siegel – cannot speak to the company’s intent.

DuPont argued in its motion that Siegel’s testimony should be excluded, in its entirety, because it speculates about the company’s motive, intent and/or state of mind and “makes legal connections” that should be reserved for the jury.

Sargus agreed that a “significant portion” of Siegel’s testimony is excludable.

“Dr. Siegel’s opinions as to what he ‘would consider to be an exemplary company, a good corporate citizen or a company with a strong sense of social responsibility… the minimum level at which [he] would expect a company to act if it has a reasonable degree of concern for the health of its surrounding community’ are ones appropriate for a jury to decide,” the judge wrote.

“There is no special expertise necessary to make these determinations.”

In his Aug. 11 order, Sargus said he would not exclude the opinions of two of the plaintiffs’ experts, James S. Smith and Robert W. Johnson.

Smith holds various degrees in chemistry and is a chemist at and president of Trillium Inc. Johnson is an economist. Smith’s testimony focuses on the scientific methods DuPont used to support its decision about the release of C8. Johnson’s testimony focuses on the financial condition of the company in the event the trial goes to a punitive damages phase.

DuPont argued that both experts’ testimonies are “unreliable.”

“Dr. Smith’s opinions rest on a reliable foundation and the method he utilized, i.e., drawing conclusions from a set of observations based on extensive and specialized knowledge and experience, is the same appropriate methodology used by Dr. (Shane A.) Snyder,” Sargus wrote, comparing Smith to DuPont’s own expert.

The judge said Johnson could be questioned about the meaning of SEC filings and proxy statements presented to the jury and then be subject to cross examination.

“The court think it is better for the jury to understand what the documents mean through the questioning of Mr. Johnson by counsel for both parties,” he wrote in the 15-page order.

DuPont spokesman Daniel Turner declined to comment on the orders. He said in an email it would not be “appropriate” for the company to comment given that the trial is set to begin in September.

The first of the MDL lawsuits to go to trial is scheduled for Sept. 14 in Columbus and is expected to last four weeks.

The lawsuits ask for compensatory and punitive damages and payment of plaintiffs’ costs for the injuries caused by what is described as DuPont’s “reckless and negligent” contamination of drinking-water supplies.

DuPont has used C8, also known as perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA, in making nonstick and stain- and water-resistant coatings for products – including pots, pans, carpets and clothes – for more than 50 years. Court records show DuPont scientists issued internal warnings about C8 as early as 1961.

The litigation between DuPont and the plaintiffs began in 2001 in a class action lawsuit in Wood County Circuit Court and ended in November 2004 when the parties entered into a class-wide settlement.

http://wvrecord.com/stories/510632953-judge-denies-dupont-testimony-expert-motions

Panel introduces medical monitoring plan in C8 case

West Virginia Record
By John O'Brien

PARKERSBURG – The panel created as a result of a Wood County lawsuit against DuPont has released its recommended medical monitoring protocols for individuals exposed to a chemical known as C8.

On May 23, the panel’s plan was filed in a lawsuit that alleged DuPont contaminated drinking water around its Washington Works plant in Wood County with Perfluorooctanoic acide, also known as PFOA or C8.

The C8 Medical Panel was created as part of a 2005 settlement. The C8 Science Panel, also created by the settlement, has previously linked C8 exposure to kidney cancer, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, hypercholesterolemia and pregnancy-induced hypertension, including preeclampsia.

The value figure attached to the settlement was $107.6 million, with $72 million funding the C8 Health Project.

Charleston attorney Harry Deitzler – of the firm Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee & Deitzler – said the medical monitoring protocols are the first phase of recommended medical screening and testing.

The C8 Medical Panel also mentioned plans to create educational materials that will help inform class members about the benefits and harms of screening, Deitzler said.

Co-counsel Ed Hill commended the C8 Medical Panel, saying, “The speed with which the C8 Medical Panel developed such a comprehensive and detailed report is truly impressive.”

Affected residents who meet the class definition will be entitled to medical testing at DuPont’s expense.

Class members who suffer from linked diseases are also permitted to move forward with personal injury or related wrongful death claims against DuPont that arise from DuPont’s discharging the known carcinogen into the drinking water.

As part of the 2005 class action settlement, DuPont agreed it would not dispute that PFOA can cause diseases the C8 Science Panel linked to PFOA exposure.

On April 8, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation created an MDL for personal injury lawsuits against DuPont over the issue.

Twenty-six lawsuits, including seven originally filed in West Virginia, were moved to U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. The order says 80,000 people live in the six water districts allegedly contaminated with C8.

Charleston attorney Kathy A. Brown, working with the Alabama firm Cory Watson Crowder & DeGaris, filed the first C8 personal injury suits last year. The three complaints were filed in October in Wood Circuit Court.

The Alabama firm had lobbied for the cases to be consolidated in the Ohio court, arguing Charleston’s federal court is too busy. It already has five MDLs assigned to Chief Judge Joseph Goodwin, including a transvaginal mesh MDL that, as of February, was home to more than 11,000 cases.

Records show there are now 44 personal injury lawsuits in the MDL, including nine from West Virginia.

The two new West Virginia plaintiffs are represented by Deitzler’s firm, Kennedy & Madonna of Hurley, N.Y., and Winter & Johnson of Charleston.

On May 29, a case management order was entered in the MDL that appointed three attorneys as co-lead counsel for plaintiffs.

Those three attorneys will be Robert A. Bilott of Taft Stettinius & Hollister in Cincinnati; Michael A. London of Douglas and London in New York; and Jon C. Conlin of Conlin Mezrano in Birmingham, Ala.

Hill will join the three as a member of the Plaintiffs Steering Committee. Other members of the PSC: are Ned McWilliams of Levin, Papantaonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor in Pensacola, Fla.; Kevin Madonna of Kennedy Madonna; Roger Denton of Schlichter, Bogard & Denton in St. Louis; Gregory H. Collins of Davis & Young in Akron, Ohio; and Richard Schulte of Wright & Schulte in Vandalia, Ohio.

From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

http://wvrecord.com/stories/510605139-panel-introduces-medical-monitoring-plan-in-c8-case

Kennedy Has His Attention Focused on a State-Regulated Pollution Problem in St. Petersburg

News Channel 8
By MARK DOUGLAS

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spends a lot of time on environmental causes ranging from global warming to Hudson River pollution. Now Kennedy has his attention focused on a state-regulated pollution problem in St. Petersburg.

"They ought to be saying to these people you're on a train track and there's a train heading for you. We don't know if it's gonna hit you, but you ought to know about it," Kennedy said.

Nine years ago, Time magazine named Kennedy as one of its "Heroes for the Planet." Some St. Petersburg homeowners who live near the Raytheon defense plant at 1501 72nd St. N. would be happy if he could just do something to spur the cleanup of their neighborhood.

Kennedy blames Florida's Department of Environmental Protection for failing to take meaningful action 17 years after the first discovery of toxic waste under the defense plant later purchased by Raytheon. "This agency has completely abandoned its obligation to the public and abdicated it in favor of becoming essentially a hand puppet for the industry it is meant to regulate," Kennedy said.

Thursday afternoon, Kennedy, who is one of the lead lawyers in a pending class action lawsuit against Raytheon, toured the neighborhoods around the plant for a first-hand look at the groundwater contamination problem that now vexes homeowners who worry about their health and their property values.

They're concerned because a plume of toxic chemicals such as dioxane, trichloroethylene and vinyl chloride has spread under their neighborhood as far as half a mile from the Raytheon property.

"Get a Raytheon executive to come and live in this house and drink this water and have their children play in the sprinklers for a couple months and see if any of them will agree to do that," Kennedy said.

The house on 12th Avenue he was referring to belongs to 70-year-old Cathy Swerediuk, who says both she and her husband have suffered from unexplained brain tumors.

"There are people here who are sick, and you can't say the water had nothing to do with it," Swerediuk said after Kennedy stopped to look at a test well on the street in front of her house.

Swerediuk told Kennedy that Raytheon says it found only minimal traces of chemical contamination in her irrigation well, but she's not taking any chances. "We all used to use our sprinklers. We don't use them anymore."

During his walking tour around the now-empty defense plant, Kennedy became curious about a dead bird in a ditch that runs along the Pinellas Trail adjacent to the rear of the plant. Records filed with the state indicate under previous ownership decades ago, plant workers dumped chemicals into the ground at the rear of the defense plant, a stone's throw from that location.

Kennedy questions why Raytheon hasn't tested water in the ditch sediments or examined the fish he observed living in it, for evidence of pollution.

"The chemical will tend to isolate in their pancreas and their flesh and their fat. It's not just a snapshot, but it gives you a panoramic of what's coming through the creek," Kennedy said, "It's a very easy thing, a very obvious thing to do."

During a briefing by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council's Agency on Bay Management on Aug. 14, Raytheon's Environmental Manager Bob Luhrs said his company hasn't tested the ditch because it's normally dry except for occasional rainwater.

"Not only is it not dry, but it's never dry," Kennedy said, "because if it was ever dry you wouldn't see these huge populations of fish in it."

Kennedy also criticizes the findings of a Raytheon report released by the DEP on Tuesday that establishes a perimeter around the known plume of "chemicals of concern" in this pollution case, but also shows 40 private irrigation wells with detectable contamination as far as a quarter mile beyond that perimeter in the neighborhoods surrounding Raytheon.

"Their argument that the plume is only this big, but now we've found that people outside the plume are also contaminated," Kennedy said. "Clearly that's also part of the plume that's coming from Raytheon. Anybody with common sense could see that."

DEP staff members are still reviewing Raytheon's latest report, and agency spokeswoman Pamala Vazquez said they couldn't yet comment on the plume or other findings. Those findings include a June 17 test showing small traces of seven chemicals in a deep ditch along Farragut Drive that drains directly into Boca Ciega Bay.

Raytheon spokesman Jon Kasle says none of those seven chemicals exceeds state surface water standards. Kasle said Raytheon is also confident about the plume's boundaries. He didn't make clear what responsibility the company will take for the 40 wells with detectable chemical contamination outside of that boundary.

During a town meeting in July, DEP District Director Barbara Getzoff indicated that two health studies have shown no one is at risk from the pollution. Getzoff said even if small amounts of pollution were flowing into Boca Ciega Bay there is no pathway to exposure for people — therefore no risk — because no one eats shellfish out of the Bay.

During his visit to St. Petersburg on Thursday, Kennedy asked a reporter, "How can she know that people aren't eating those oysters?"