The anatomy of an environmental bad actor: DuPont's Teflon cover-up

The fallacy of allowing industry to self-regulate:

Thirty-four years ago, an employee from a DuPont plant near Parkersburg, West Virginia, filled a jug with tap water from a little general store just across the Ohio River called Mason’s Village Market. An internal DuPont document shows that the company was secretly testing the water for ammonium perfluorooctanoate — better known as C8. DuPont employees also took samples from stores in eight other unsuspecting communities in the Ohio River Valley.

The document shows C8 was detected at three stores closest to the plant, including Mason’s Village Market in Little Hocking, Ohio. It also shows that, at one of those stores, the level of C8 measured more than 20 times higher than what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today considers safe for drinking water.

Their actions (or inaction) is proof the only reason they conducted this testing was to determine future legal exposure, not whether they should change their behavior for the safety of citizens. This compound has been slightly modified 3-4 times over the years, and again, it appears the reasons for those modifications was not to make them safer, just provide deniability. GenX is the most recent iteration, and here we are starting with a blank slate on just how toxic it is. But at least we seem to be ahead of the game compared to these poor folks:

Residents of Little Hocking, Lubeck and Washington kept right on with their daily lives, too, drinking tap water laced with a chemical that DuPont knew back then caused diseases in laboratory animals. Today, C8 is considered a probable cause of kidney and testicular cancer in humans, as well as other diseases.

It wasn’t until about 2002 — 18 years later — that Little Hocking residents and thousands of other people living near the DuPont plant would learn that C8 had contaminated their drinking water.

Melinda McDowell, whose tap water comes from the Little Hocking Water Authority, was one of them. She has lived in a small Ohio town about 10 miles north of the plant for about 25 years. “I was feeding that to my child, to my babies,” said McDowell, who is 61. “As a mom, I’m mad as hell.’’

In so many ways, the environmental crisis in the Ohio River Valley is now playing out in southeastern North Carolina, where DuPont made C8 at its Fayetteville Works plant from 2002 to around 2009, when it began to switch for environmental and health reasons to a closely related compound called GenX.

The General Assembly needs to stop screwing around about this, playing political games against Roy Cooper and his administration when they should be giving DEQ all the tools and support it needs to get a handle on this problem. They need more regulators? Give them the money they need to hire them, as opposed to robbing another department, which is likely also shorthanded thanks to budget cuts. They need a gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer? Give them the funds to buy the newest, most accurate one available. There are literally thousands of chemical compounds being used in industry and agriculture, and a GC/MS is really the only way to separate out the individual elements for proper identification and quantification.

Republicans think they can play this against Dems in November, dump the responsibility for the tainted water on Roy Cooper. I got news for them: Voters will be well-informed on where the responsibility lies, will know what asinine comments were made and how little money was actually devoted to this problem. And they won't be pleased, I can guarantee that.

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