From: Ken Ward Jr., The Charleston Gazette, W.Va.
Published November 24, 2004 12:00 AM

DuPont Settlement will Fund Study on Chemical's Impact on Human Health

Nov. 23—Most of a $70 million cash payment from a DuPont Co. legal settlement will fund the largest-ever study of how the company's C8 chemical affects human health, according to new court filings.


Residents who drank water contaminated with C8 will be paid up to $400 each to take part in a series of health screenings and blood tests, according to settlement documents filed late last week.


As many as 80,000 people — more than the 50,000 previously cited by DuPont — could be part of the class covered by the settlement, according to the documents filed in Wood Circuit Court in Parkersburg.


The new numbers include current customers of area water districts, former customers of those suppliers and residents with private wells.


This afternoon, lawyers for residents and DuPont for the first time will explain details of the settlement to Wood Circuit Judge George Hill.


Under state court rules, the settlement cannot be finalized until Hill holds a public hearing and approves of the arrangement.


General terms of the deal were made public in a joint press release issued in early September. But a formal settlement agreement had not been filed with the court until last week.


In all, DuPont will pay at least $107.6 million to settle the lawsuit over pollution of Parkersburg-area water supplies with C8, a toxic chemical used to make Teflon.


Under the agreement, DuPont will offer to provide six local drinking water companies with new treatment equipment to reduce C8 in their water supplies.


The company will also fund a $5 million independent study to determine if C8 makes people sick, and pay $22.6 million in legal fees and expenses for residents who sued.


Eventually, DuPont could be forced to spend another $235 million on a program to monitor the health of residents who were exposed to the chemical.


The settlement also preserves the rights of any residents who find later that they were made sick by C8 to sue DuPont for monetary damages for their illness.


But the 32-page settlement agreement made clear for the first time how money from an initial cash payment by DuPont of $70 million will be used.


In their initial press release, the parties had said only that $20 million of the $70 million would be used for "health and education projects."


The settlement document projects that all $70 million could actually be used for one health project: a massive C8 blood study.


Through this study, lawyers for the residents hope to test anyone who drank contaminated water for at least a year for C8 effects.


Residents who apply and are found to qualify would be paid $150. Then, if they take part in two blood tests, they would be paid an additional $250, for a total of $400.


The settlement documents state that the testing itself costs $546. So, the total value to each resident — in cash and medical tests — is $946.


"Because the settlement class could include 80,000 people, it is anticipated that the entire settlement fund will be expended by disbursements paid directly to or for the benefit of each health project participant," the settlement documents state.


If there is money left over, it will be distributed equally among the participants, unless the amount per person would be less than $25.


If that's the case, the remaining funds would be donated to the Good Samaritan Clinic in Parkersburg, the settlement documents state.


At today's hearing, lawyers for both sides will ask Hill to approve the language of public notices about the settlement, and plans for issuing those notices.


A "fairness hearing," at which members of the public can object to the settlement terms, has been scheduled for Feb. 28.


To see more of The Charleston Gazette, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.wvgazette.com.© 2004, The Charleston Gazette, W.Va. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.


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