Well owners file suit over GenX contamination

Well owners file suit over GenX contamination

Source: Fayetteville Observer (NC), February 22, 2018
Posted on: http://www.advisen.com

Dozens of residents who live near a Bladen County plant that manufactures a potentially cancer causing compound filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against the company and its predecessor.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court by lawyers in Asheville and Dallas on behalf of 70 residents who live near the Chemours plant, which is off N.C. 87 near the Cumberland County line. It alleges that Chemours and its predecessor, DuPont, secretly released GenX and similar compounds into the groundwater, lakes, air, soil and Cape Fear River.

Chemours officials did not respond to an email sent late Wednesday afternoon seeking a response to the suit and its allegations.

The lawsuit is separate from suits filed earlier on behalf of residents who live in communities near the Cape Fear River downstream from the facility.

North Carolina environmental regulators have been investigating Chemours since June when the Wilmington StarNews reported that researchers had published a study the previous year showing they had found GenX and similar compounds in the river. GenX has since been discovered in more than 280 private wells near the plant, including more than 150 that have elevated levels of the compound.

GenX has been linked to several forms of cancer in animal studies, but it isn’t known if the effect is the same in humans. The compound is used to make nonstick cookware and other products.

The lawsuit focuses on GenX and C8, a compound that was previously made at the Chemours plant. C8, which also is known as PFOA, has a “suggestive” risk for cancer, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The lawsuit also mentions two Nafion byproducts from the Bladen County plant. Nafion is a brand name for membrane products manufactured for electronic cells.

Nafion products also are used for “energy storage; fuel cell; bulk, specialty, and ultra-high purity chemical production; waste recovery; and other specialty applications,” according to the Chemours website.

DuPont, which formed Chemours in 2015 as a spinoff company, said in 2009 that it would stop making C8. DuPont was facing a class-action lawsuit from thousands of people in Ohio and West Virginia because it had been discharging the compound into the Ohio River since the 1950s.

Chemours and DuPont last year settled about 3,500 lawsuits, with each company agreeing to pay $335.35 million and up to $25 million a year each for the next five years for potential later claims. Those lawsuits had alleged that DuPont knew C8 was dangerous, but failed to stop it from poisoning the water supply.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday alleges that for 40 years the two companies “have been secretly releasing their persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic perfluorinated chemicals into the community around Fayetteville Works and contaminating nearby property, groundwater, and surface water, including the Cape Fear River — just as they did in Parkersburg, West Virginia — all the while misleading state and Federal regulators and the public.”

The lawsuit alleges that even though DuPont was supposed to stop making C8 in 2013, monitoring reports showed discharges of the compound in October 2016 at more than 2,285 times the EPA guideline and more than 142 times the guideline level the following March.

The companies told regulators the C8 and GenX were made in a “closed loop system” which captured the compounds and shipped them to another site for disposal, but instead the companies were discharging the chemicals and other similar compounds since 1980, according to the lawsuit’s allegations.

The lawsuit also alleges that the companies contaminated the air. DuPont engineers developed a model that shows plumes of C8 would lead to a “hot spot” over nearby Willis Creek. The plant also emitted thousands of pounds of GenX from 2012 to 2016, the suit alleges.

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