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DEP to enforce limits on amount of C8 discharged into the air

By Martha Bryson Hodel, The Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Limits on airborne emissions of a controversial chemical used by DuPont at its Wood County plant will be enforced as part of the company's pollution permits, a spokesman for the state environmental agency said.

The Department of Environmental Protection notified DuPont of the change in its permits by letter sent out late Wednesday, DEP lawyer Perry McDaniel said.

The permit change will give DEP the power to enforce limits on the emissions of ammonium perfluorooctanoate, also known as C8, from DuPont's Washington Works.

C8 is a key chemical in the manufacturing of Teflon, but so far it has not been regulated by either state or federal agencies. Little is known for certain about the chemical, including its effects on human health.

However, residents who live near the plant have filed a class-action lawsuit against DuPont, alleging that the company knowingly discharged C8 into water supplies and asserting that exposure to the chemical has made them ill.

DuPont agreed to limit C8 emissions from its plant in a December 2001 consent order that established temporary guidelines while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency develops permanent guidelines for the chemical. The consent order covers both air and water emissions.

A report issued by DEP's toxicology team last August set a limit of one microgram per cubic meter as a long-term exposure level. That means that their average annual emission of C8 must be no greater than one microgram per cubic meter at any area outside of DuPont's plant.

Meanwhile, DEP is reviewing workplace standards for exposure to C8 as a means of deciding whether a need exists to establish levels of C8 exposure for the general public.

"We want to look at the science behind workplace exposure limits to see if that would provide us with information to enforce emission levels," McDaniel said. "We want to find out if these workplace limits have any application to protection for the general public."

At the same time, the state DEP has asked for help from a number of other agencies, including the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the National Institutes for Occupational Safety and Health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio state EPA, McDaniel said.

Also Wednesday, a Washington, D.C., based environmental organization known as the Environmental Working Group asked Gov. Bob Wise to appoint a new committee to investigate C8, alleging that at least two top DEP managers were lawyers who formerly represented DuPont in private practice.

"The governor is confident that DEP is handling the situation correctly," said Wise spokeswoman Amy Shuler-Goodwin.

"It's a red herring they're throwing out," McDaniel said. "There are no other enforceable standards out there."

McDaniel said the agency has made it clear that the standard imposed on DuPont's permits "is a provisional number, a number to use for compliance between now and the time that U.S. EPA comes out with an official standard.

"We thought it was important to do something, and this is the way we could do that," he said.

 

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