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DuPont is developing own way to filter C8

By Callie Lyons,

DuPont officials say they are working on technology which may prove to be beneficial in the cleanup of the chemical with the trade name of C8 from ground water.

Experts say it also might show promise as a method for cleaning PFOA-contaminated water found at several public water systems located along the Ohio River near DuPont's Washington Works plant.

Earlier this week, Vapcon, Inc., a Lexington, Ky.-based company, made a presentation in Marietta claiming that its LifeMist home distillation system, which has been on the market for 26 years, virtually eliminates C8 from drinking water. If true, it would be a breakthrough in the development of technology to clean up the chemical in local water supplies.

After the Monday presentation, DuPont released information regarding its own testing on clean-up methods for the chemical.

"DuPont has been conducting tests on a small scale using a new type of granular activated carbon system to treat groundwater containing PFOA. While preliminary results are promising, they are not conclusive and the testing process continues," said Dawn Jackson of DuPont's External Affairs department. "Granular activated carbon is a proven technology for water treatment generally. Its level of effectiveness for PFOA is under evaluation."

Robert Griffin, director of the Little Hocking Water Association, said while the distillation process might work for some homeowners, it's not practical for reducing C8 levels for an entire water system.

Griffen said a granular activated carbon system may hold some promise. But two big questions remain to be answered: "How low will it take the C8 levels? And, what's the expense?"

The Teflon-related manufacturing chemical, recognized locally under the DuPont trade name C8, was detected in local water supplies in 2001 and 2002, leaving many of the systems' consumers with concerns about the safety of their drinking water.

The DuPont Washington Works plant, which is located near Parkersburg, has used and emitted the substance for 50 years. DuPont officials claim C8 causes no harmful health effects in humans, even though the substance has been shown to cause developmental and reproductive problems in laboratory animals.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is conducting an investigation into the toxicity of PFOA. Meanwhile, in Wood County Circuit Court, water customers who fear the substance's ill effects are bringing action against DuPont in a class action lawsuit.

In cooperation with the EPA's investigation, industry representatives have submitted information regarding methods they are using to reduce emissions, including technology employed to draw C8 out of water before it goes back into the waste stream. However, the EPA has not been involved in discussions about technology that would address removing C8 from drinking water supplies where it has been detected.

Ward Penberthy, associate director of the EPA's chemical control division said industry officials have made public commitments to share information involving technology to help recycle and reuse the chemical. Penberthy said the EPA did not have information on Vapcon's distillation process or DuPont's granular activated carbon testing because the agency's inquiry was focused on a particular set of issues.

Griffin said the technology behind a granular activated carbon system might resemble that used in a carbon water filter. However, that does not mean that consumers should trust that a filter will reduce C8 levels.

Scientists from the Environmental Working Group, a Washington DC-based research coalition, said granular activated carbon systems are usually better used for organic compounds. So, in order to remove C8, additional technology might be needed.

"We applaud DuPont's research into a granular activated carbon system," said Dr. Kris Thayer, EWG scientist. "We hope that whatever positive results it achieves in removing C8 from area water supplies are implemented immediately so that mid-Ohio valley residents can drink water free of Teflon chemicals. In addition, we hope that DuPont and other companies making these chemicals that are already found in over 90 percent of human blood nationwide seek alternatives that do not pollute air, water, and people."

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