Thu, Feb

DuPont Settles Charges over Pollutant

DuPont Co. and the Bush administration have agreed to settle allegations that the company hid from the public and regulators important information about the dangers of the toxic chemical C8.

DuPont Co. and the Bush administration have agreed to settle allegations that the company hid from the public and regulators important information about the dangers of the toxic chemical C8.

Late last week, DuPont told its shareholders that it had reached "an agreement in principle" with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In a Thursday filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, DuPont said it had set aside $15 million for the deal.

Under federal law, DuPont could have faced civil fines of more than $300 million for not reporting information that showed C8 posed "substantial risk of injury to health or the environment."

EPA officials said Friday that the case was still not formally settled and that no penalty amount had been set.

"It's not quite resolved," said Stacie Keller, an EPA spokeswoman. "There is an agreement in principal.

"This is going to be in negotiations for a while," Keller said. "There is no agreement on the amount at this point."

DuPont officials at company headquarters in Wilmington, Del., did not return phone calls Friday afternoon.

But on Friday, DuPont did issue a news release to announce that it would provide "critical technologies" to reduce C8 emissions to other companies in the industry.

C8 is another name for perfluorooctanoate, and is also known as perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA. At its Washington Works plant south of Parkersburg, DuPont has used C8 for more than 50 years, most notably in the production of Teflon.

For years, C8 -- and DuPont's emissions of it -- have been basically unregulated. But in the past few years, C8 has come under increasing scrutiny. Fueled in large part by internal DuPont documents uncovered by lawyers for Wood County residents, the EPA has begun a detailed review of the chemical and sued DuPont for allegedly hiding information about C8's dangers.

In February, a Wood County judge approved a $107.6 million settlement of a lawsuit filed against DuPont on behalf of thousands of residents whose drinking water was allegedly poisoned with C8.

Also in February, members of the EPA Science Advisory Board urged the agency to elevate its cancer-causing classification for the chemical and do an even more thorough review of the substance.

Based largely on documents from the residents' lawyers, the EPA in July 2004 filed a complaint against DuPont under the federal Toxic Substances Control Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

In that complaint, EPA alleged that DuPont had caused "widespread contamination" of drinking water supplies near its Parkersburg plant.

EPA also alleged that this pollution has created a "substantial risk of injury to the health or the environment."

DuPont, EPA alleged, never told the government that the company had water tests that showed C8 in residential supplies in concentrations greater than the company's own internal limit.

Also, EPA alleged that DuPont withheld -- for more than 20 years -- the results of a test showing that at least one pregnant worker from the Parkersburg plant had transferred the chemical from her body to her fetus.

That information, the EPA said, supported animal tests showing that C8 "moves across the placental barrier." EPA said that agency efforts to understand C8's health effects "might have been more expeditious" if DuPont had submitted the human test results in 1981.

Further, the EPA alleged that DuPont did not provide the EPA with this information, even after the agency requested it under the terms of the company's hazardous-waste permit.

Earlier this week, EPA announced that DuPont had agreed to spend nearly $2.6 million to settle alleged Clean Air Act violations at the company's plant in New Johnsonville, Tenn., west of Nashville.

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Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News