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C8 trial delayed by Supreme Court hearing

By Pamela Brust, Special to The Times

PARKERSBURG - A September trial has been delayed in a pending lawsuit filed by residents alleging C8 emitted by the Washington Works DuPont plant has damaged their health.

Proceedings in the class-action lawsuit filed against DuPont is stayed pending the outcome of DuPont's appeal in West Virginia Supreme Court. The company is seeking a writ of prohibition to block an earlier order issued by Circuit Judge George W. Hill that requires DuPont to provide and pay for C8 blood testing. DuPont is also seeking a writ to prohibit Hill from acting further, asking his disqualification issue be transferred to the chief justice for ruling.

Trial in the civil action had been set for Sept. 15 in Hill's court. However, the high court scheduled a hearing for 10 a.m. Sept. 23 on DuPont's motion.

The judge earlier ordered DuPont to offer and pay for blood tests to determine C8 levels of the class members in the pending suit. DuPont has estimated there are 50,000 or more members of the class action. If surrounding water districts are included that number could be in excess of 100,000, according to the company's estimates.

DuPont is arguing the order for the blood testing was granted without proper advance notice to its attorneys that such an issue would be addressed and without legal basis. The company claims the testing will cost "millions of dollars," create "undue anxiety among West Virginia residents" and take time and resources away from DuPont in preparing for trial.

DuPont also filed a motion for a $2 million injunction bond. The circuit court delayed ruling on the motion for bond. The company is seeking the bond so it can recover some of its costs if blood testing is not approved. Hill delayed his ruling pending Supreme Court action. DuPont's motions argue that since the judge has not imposed bond, or relieved the parties of their obligation to pay it, DuPont has no way of recovering its losses from the class members, company attorneys argue.

According to affidavits filed recently, an expert from DuPont's Haskell Laboratory stated there are few labs that can test at the level of parts per billion and the fee for analysis of 100,000-plus individuals is estimated at $90 per sample plus the costs of supplies, notices and other expenses.

Ammonium perfluorooctanoate, or C8 as it is commonly referred to locally, is a detergent-like material DuPont uses in manufacturing fluoropolymers like Teflon. DuPont officials state in more than 50 years of using C8 there has been no indication it is a human health hazard, but there has been evidence in lab animals that C8 could be harmful. That's why the federal Environmental Protection Agency is looking into the potential impact C8 has on people.

The original lawsuit was filed August 2001 by Lubeck and Washington residents against DuPont and Lubeck Public Service District. LPSD has settled its portion of the suit. The civil action alleges DuPont knowingly discharged C8 into water supplies in amounts exceeding the plant's own guidelines, concealing that information from the public. Plaintiffs claim C8 exposure has made them ill, including increased risks of cancer and other diseases.


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