DuPont and spinoff company Chemours have agreed to a $670.7 million settlement resolving a long-running environmental pollution lawsuit that allegedly exposed thousands of Mid-Ohio River Valley residents to a spectrum of cancers and other life-threatening diseases.
The settlement comes as welcome news to other communities affected by ammonium perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) pollution. DuPont used PFOA in its Washington Works Factory to make fluorine-based polymers that form the basis for thousands of nonstick and waterproof products, including Teflon, Stainmaster, and Gore-Tex fabric.
PFOA, also called C-8, was made and used by DuPont and its affiliates for decades. Over time, dangerously high levels of the carcinogenic chemical built up in the environment, exposing people in Ohio and West Virginia near the Ohio River to an unusually high risk of cancer.
DuPont has been fighting the class-action lawsuit over PFOA pollution since 2001 after the drinking water supplies of about 70,000 people tested positive for the chemical. Litigation of that case demonstrated that the Washington Works Factory in Parkersburg, West Virginia, had been releasing PFOA into the air and local waterways.
According to the Bucks County Courier Times, an initial settlement of about $350 million in 2004 helped fund the C-8 Science Panel, a six-year study led by epidemiologists whose research linked PFOA to kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, high blood pressure, pregnancy-induced hypertension, and thyroid disease.
Those findings triggered about 3,550 personal-injury lawsuits filed by Mid-Ohio Valley residents diagnosed with those conditions. A number of bellwether test trials resulted in substantial wins for the plaintiffs last year. Those wins likely pushed DuPont and Chemours to a settlement.
“This is a tremendous positive step toward resolving this litigation in a way that provides compensation for our injured clients without the need for additional, lengthy, and expensive trials,” a lead plaintiffs’ lawyer who negotiated the settlement said in a press statement.
DuPont laid out its plan to address future PFOA liabilities in a statement. The company said that Chemours, which separated from DuPont in 2015 and maintained the “performance chemicals” unit, would annually pay PFOA liabilities outside the settlement up to $25 million over the next five years. If that amount is exceeded, DuPont would pay any excess liabilities up to the next $25 million, with Chemours annually paying any further excess liabilities.