DuPont faces a federal lawsuit from nine Ohio and West Virginia residents who have cancer and other diseases, alleging that the company knowingly contaminated drinking-water supplies with a chemical used by one of its plants.
The complaints, filed Oct. 8 and this week, are among about 50 such cases — including one alleging wrongful death — filed against the company since April, when a court-appointed science panel found probable links between exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as C8, and kidney cancer, testicular cancer and thyroid disease, among others.
DuPont, based in Wilmington, Del., uses C8 at its plant near Parkersburg, West Va., on the Ohio line but plans to stop making and using the chemical by 2015. C8 is a key ingredient in Teflon, the coating used on cookware, clothing and other products.
The recent litigation is the latest in a years-long battle between DuPont and residents of the mid-Ohio Valley, in the heart of Appalachia along the Ohio River.
About 80,000 area residents filed a class-action lawsuit against the company in 2001. It resulted in a settlement in which DuPont agreed to pay as much as $343 million for residents’ medical tests, the removal of as much C8 from the area’s water supply as possible and a science panel’s years-long study into whether C8 causes disease in humans.
“These are folks who’ve been waiting many, many years to be able to pursue these claims,” said Rob Bilott, a Cincinnati attorney who has been working on the case for more than 15 years and represents the Mid-Ohio Valley residents. “Our goal is to be able to get these resolved for them and move forward as quickly as we can.”
In a written statement, DuPont spokesman Dan Turner pointed out the company’s efforts to pay for the medical study of C8 and fund a medical monitoring program for residents exposed to the chemical.
“Lawsuits such as these ignore family history, lifestyle choices and other causes of health issues and disease in specific individuals,” Turner said. “DuPont will vigorously defend against any and all such lawsuits not based upon valid science.”
The roughly 50 recent lawsuits in Ohio and West Virginia, which seek unspecified damages, have been consolidated into one case being presided over by a federal judge in Columbus. The first trial in the matter is set for September 2015.