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EPA Reaches Agreement with DuPont to Protect Drinking Water Near W.Va. Plant

Release Date: 11/21/2006
Contact Information: Roy Seneca (215) 814-5567

PHILADELPHIA – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has signed a consent order with E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Co. that lowers the action level of perfluorooctanoic acid – also known as PFOA or C8 – in drinking water for residents in communities surrounding DuPont’s Washington Works facility, Washington, W. Va. (seven miles southwest of Parkersburg).

“By agreeing to a stricter PFOA action level now in the vicinity of the facility, EPA and DuPont are taking additional steps to protect local public health while EPA completes a risk assessment for PFOA,” said Donald S. Welsh, regional administrator for EPA’s mid-Atlantic region.

Under the order, DuPont will offer alternative drinking water or treatment for public or private water users living near the Washington Works plant if the level of PFOA detected in drinking water is equal to or greater than 0.50 parts per billion (ppb). The agreement affects people in West Virginia and Ohio living near the Washington Works plant.

This action level replaces the 150 ppb threshold established under a March 2002 EPA consent order. EPA’s lowering of the action level is based on newer data from experimental animal studies and elevated blood serum levels of PFOA found in the population surrounding the plant, as compared to levels found in the general U.S. population.

PFOA is a synthetic chemical that is not currently regulated under federal environmental laws. PFOA is widely used to make fluoropolymers – substances with special properties used in many industrial applications, including the manufacture of consumer products such as non-stick cookware and all-weather clothing. PFOA is very persistent in the environment and is found at low levels both in the environment and in the blood of the general U.S. population. Studies indicate that PFOA can cause developmental and other adverse effects in laboratory animals.

The major companies using PFOA, including DuPont, have joined the PFOA Stewardship Program initiated by EPA. These companies have committed to reduce PFOA from emissions and product content by 95 percent by 2010, and to work toward eliminating PFOA emissions and content by 2015. For more information on PFOA and the stewardship program, visit www.epa.gov/oppt/pfoa/ .

PFOA has been used since the 1950s at DuPont’s Washington Works facility. In recent years, EPA and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection have taken actions to protect communities from PFOA contamination of drinking water. In November 2001, West Virginia issued a consent order directing DuPont to monitor groundwater near the Washington Works plant for discharges of PFOA, and conduct a study of the public health impacts of PFOA releases.

The 0.50 ppb action level is a temporary measure to reduce levels of PFOA exposure for residents while EPA completes research required for the PFOA risk assessment. The risk assessment will help estimate the amount of PFOA that people can be exposed to without experiencing adverse health effects. Based on the risk assessment results, EPA will take action if necessary to further protect public health.

The text of the consent agreement is available at www.epa.gov/region03/enforcement/dupont_order.pdf and a fact sheet with more details on the order is available at www.epa.gov/region03/enforcement/dupont_factsheet.html .

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