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DowDuPont, Chemours named in GenX lawsuit

Replacement for troublesome fluoropolymer processing aid is the target of a class-action suit

by Marc S. Reisch
October 10, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 41

A photo of the Cape Fear River and downtown Wilmington, N.C.
Credit: Shutterstock
Cape Fear River in Wilmington, N.C.

Lawyers have filed a class-action lawsuit charging Chemours and its former parent DowDuPont with contaminating drinking water in Wilmington, N.C., with the fluoropolymer processing aid GenX. The suit follows a furor in the spring over the chemical’s release from a Chemours plant.

Filed in Federal District Court in Wilmington on behalf of city resident Brent Nix, the suit seeks health monitoring for illnesses that may be caused by GenX and similar contaminants released into the Cape Fear River from Chemours’s plant 160 km upriver in Fayetteville, N.C. In addition, it seeks compensation for lost property value on behalf of Nix and as many as 100,000 additional plaintiffs should the court certify the case as a class-action suit.

According to the suit, “defendants have negligently and otherwise acted to cause toxic chemicals to be released from the Fayetteville Works Site, which then traveled to and contaminated and damaged the properties and household water supplies of plaintiff and class members, and exposed them to toxic chemicals.”

Chemours did not respond to a request for comment on the suit, which was filed by the Hannon Law Firm, a Denver-based toxic tort law practice, and the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, a Durham, N.C., personal injury law firm. DowDuPont referred press inquiries to Chemours.

GenX was developed as a safer alternative to the fluorinated surfactants used for years at the Fayetteville plant to make Teflon fluoropolymers. A six-carbon fluorinated compound, GenX replaced two eight-carbon molecules, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS).

According to the lawsuit, DowDuPont submitted documents to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that “indicate that GenX has been associated with increased risk of health effects in laboratory animal studies.”

The suit also claims that levels of GenX in Wilmington’s drinking water reached as high as 720 parts per trillion in June. The North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services set an upper limit of 140 ppt for GenX in drinking water in July. EPA guidelines call for no more than 70 ppt of PFOA or PFOS in drinking water.

Earlier this year, DowDuPont and Chemours paid $670 million to settle 3,550 lawsuits bought by Ohio and West Virginia residents who say they were sickened by drinking water contaminated with PFOA and PFOS released from Chemours’s Parkersburg, W.Va., plant.



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