March 19, 2003|
By Callie Lyons, firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON, W.Va. - Emissions of C8 into the air and water have been reduced by as much as 76 percent since 1999, according to information released recently by officials at the DuPont Washington Works plant.
The information was discussed by officials at the plant Tuesday on the heels of statewide news reports questioning the health risk posed by the chemical, and also after last week's request by an environmental watchdog group for West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise to appoint an independent committee to set safety levels for the chemical in the community.
Tuesday's event also comes after a request by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to meet with plant officials and re-examine how and when the C8 chemical is released into the air.
C8, or ammonium perfluorooctanate, has been used by DuPont in the production of Teflon and other products for the past half-century. Residents of Lubeck, W.Va., filed a class-action lawsuit in 2001, alleging the water containing the chemical was unsafe and harmful to human health.
At a press conference Tuesday, Plant Manager Paul Bossert reported progress on DuPont's reduction of C8 emissions and described the scientific data that supports the company's claim. Statistics show total emissions into the air and water were reduced by 86,806 pounds in 1999 and another 20,168 pounds in 2002.
A recent progress report submitted to the West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection said DuPont achieved a 76.8 percent reduction in C8 emissions from 1999 to 2002. Emissions to water were cut by nearly 90 percent, while emissions to air were reduced more than 50 percent. The company expects to achieve a 90 percent reduction in total C8 emissions by the end of 2004.
Bossert said there is no filter on the market that will remove it from drinking water and "no practical way to get rid of the material" in contaminated private wells, but Bossert said people should not be concerned about it because 50 years of working with the substance have resulted in no adverse health effects.
Citizens say they want to know the truth about whether the chemical is harmful to people's health.
"It's what we don't know that kills people," said Eugene Harlow, 79, of Cutler. "We have a bad history in this country with cancer. People have to look at every angle to take care of their health. You have to protect yourself."
Harlow is a customer of the Little Hocking Water Association, a community water provider that has detected C8 contamination levels ranging between 0.6 and 8.58 parts per billion. Harlow is one of many consumers who buy bottled drinking water "to be on the safe side."
Dr. Robert W. Rickard, director of DuPont Haskell Laboratory for Health and Environmental Sciences, said at the Tuesday announcement he was confident that although C8 has proven to be an animal carcinogen in laboratory studies, there is no evidence it acts as a human carcinogen. Rickard said a person would have to drink 2,000 gallons of water a day to consume as much C8 as produced cancer in lab rats.
"What we're trying to do today is give you the basis for our confidence," Rickard said. "We are talking about parts per billion, which is equal to one second every 33 years. This is not going to create any biological effect whatsoever."
Even so, last week Kenneth A. Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group of Washington, D.C., petitioned West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise to appoint an independent committee to assess safety levels for community exposure to C8. The matter had been assigned to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, but Cook expressed concern that many agency representatives may have a conflict of interest. Five of 10 voting members of the C8 Assessment Toxicity Team, responsible for establishing water guidance levels, are employees of DuPont or a chemical industry consulting firm.
2002 progress report
Reductions of C8 emissions at DuPont Washington Works
1999 2002 Reduction
Air 31,209 14,480 53.6%
Water 55,597 5,688 89.8%
Total 86,806 20,168 76.8%
*Emissions are measured in pounds.
On the Net: DuPont C8 Information: www.C-8inform.com