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
"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.