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Suit alleges DuPont contamination of water

Apr 19, 2006 | AP Drinking water supplies near a DuPont facility in New Jersey have been contaminated with chemicals, including a suspected carcinogen used in the production of Teflon, according to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday.

The lawsuit alleges that the contamination is linked to the manufacturing, use and disposal of perfluorinated chemicals, including PFOA, at DuPont's Chambers Works plant in Salem County, N.J.

PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, is a processing aid used in the manufacturing of fluoropolymers, which have a wide variety of product applications, including nonstick cookware. The chemical also can be a byproduct in the manufacturing of fluorotelomers used in surface protection products for applications such as stain-resistant textiles and grease-resistant food wrappers.

The plaintiffs are seeking class-action status and compensatory and punitive damages for what they describe as the "intentional, knowing, reckless and negligent acts and omissions of DuPont in connection with the contamination of human drinking water supplies."

In a statement, DuPont said the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in New Jersey, is without merit.

"We are confident in the safety of our operations at our Chambers Works site," the company said.

According to the lawsuit, DuPont has known for years that PFOA was being released into the air from operations and activities at the Chambers Works Plant, and was contaminating the groundwater underneath.

A 2003 report by DuPont found that PFOA was being released into the Delaware River at concentrations as high as 194 parts per billion, and had been detected in a water intake for Salem Canal, designated as a drinking water source by New Jersey environmental regulators, at a concentration of .089 ppb, according to the complaint.

In 2004, DuPont agreed to pay as much as $343 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by Ohio and West Virginia residents who alleged that their water supplies had been contaminated with PFOA from a DuPont plant in Parkersburg, W.Va.

The company agreed to spend up to $70 million for medical evaluations of up to 80,000 people who drank water contaminated with the chemical. DuPont also agreed to provide six local utilities with new water treatment equipment and fund an independent study to determine if PFOA makes people sick.

DuPont could be forced to spend another $235 million on a program to monitor the health of residents exposed to the chemical.

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