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DuPont faces more legal liabilities for cleanups

PFOA contamination and the environmental legacy of Chambers Works plague the firm as it awaits a combination with Dow

by Marc S. Reisch
January 2, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 1

DuPont’s environmental headaches became a migraine at the end of last year as it lost one contamination lawsuit and confronted a new one.

Late last month, the firm, which is awaiting completion of its merger with Dow Chemical, was ordered by an Ohio jury to pay $2 million to a man who claimed he developed testicular cancer from drinking water contaminated by a DuPont fluorochemical. A second lawsuit, launched by the town of Carneys Point, N.J., wants DuPont to pay more than $1 billion to clean up pollution from the Chambers Works manufacturing site, which it operated for more than a century.

The Ohio jury award is the latest in a series of trials DuPont has been defending since late 2015 over its liability for contaminating wells with the Teflon processing aid perfluoroctanoic acid. The PFOA came from the firm’s plant in Parkersburg, W.Va. Overall, DuPont faces 3,500 suits in federal court by residents who claim PFOA-laced water made them ill.

So far, four cases have gone to trial. Three have gone against DuPont for more than $9 million in total. Others were settled out of court for an “immaterial amount,” according to a DuPont financial document. The judge overseeing the PFOA suits has scheduled an additional 39 trials this year.

The Carneys Point suit claims that over the years the Chambers Works released more than 45 million kg of hazardous waste into the soil and groundwater, threatening nearby residential neighborhoods. In its complaint, the municipality alleges that DuPont spun off the complex in 2015 to Chemours to avoid the cost of the cleanup.


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