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Local rep to monitor hearing about C8

By Callie Lyons,

WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Lisbon, has taken an interest in a public hearing today because of the impact it may have on the Washington County residents he represents.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was to conduct the first public meeting this afternoon on a manufacturing chemical, which is familiar to local residents under the trade name C8. The purpose is to gather information that can be used to investigate whether the chemical is harmful to people.

One of the goals of the hearing is to develop an enforceable consent agreement that will determine the future handling and use of the chemical.

In an interview in his office Thursday, Strickland said he was paying particular attention to the outcome of the hearing because of the concerns of his constituents, especially those who are served by the Little Hocking Water and Sewer District.

The chemical, used by the DuPont Plant in Washington, W.Va., was discovered in the Little Hocking water system in January 2002.

Strickland will be unable to attend the meeting because of a prior commitment, but one of his aides will be participating in the process. His office has received a few calls on the issue from Little Hocking area citizens.

"Most of what we know is from the media," Strickland said. "There are a lot of unknowns here. DuPont has said there are no indications that it is harmful to human health, but I don't know if we have the kind of scientific conclusion that makes me feel comfortable with how this situation stands right now."

Many local people, such as Howard and Molly Varner, of Bartlett, are concerned about the potential hazards of the chemical, particularly since it has been detected in their drinking water.

"This is fairly typical of large corporations being held unaccountable for their actions," Howard Varner said. "I would like for them to get clean water for us. Corporations go their merry way and leave it to taxpayers to clean up the mess."

The EPA is trying to determine whether the chemical, known to scientists as PFOA, is harmful to humans. Studies have shown the chemical to cause reproductive and developmental problems in laboratory animals.

But, DuPont, the corporation that uses C8 as a key ingredient in the making of the non-stick substance known as Teflon, says that in 50 years of manufacturing use, they are sure there are no detriments to humans.

In a statement released Thursday, DuPont officials said they support the plans to conduct a scientific assessment of the chemical to evaluate its risks. The statement said such a study would allay the public's fears about the safety of the chemical.

The company also reiterated its statement that it is not harmful to humans.

"DuPont remains confident that in 50 years of use of PFOA by DuPont and others, there have been no known adverse human health effects associated with this material," said Dr. Uma Chowdhry, a vice president for DuPont.

Strickland said he believes there is a legitimate concern of the people who have a right to a definitive determination on the harmfulness or potential harmfulness of the chemical. But, he wants to be cautious not to cause unwarranted fear.

"I'm hopeful the EPA will be able to gather information and at least lay out what is known and what we don't know to provide a clearer sense of what needs to be done," Strickland said.

Another group taking particular interest and participating in today's hearing is the Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based environmental action group.

Lauren Sucher, spokeswoman for the group, said she is impressed with how quickly the issue is being handled by the U.S. EPA.

"The first public hearing has been scheduled faster than any we know of in the agency's history," Sucher said.


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