PFOA found at DuPont plant

PFOA found at DuPont plant

Postby pfpcnews » Wed Nov 15, 2006 5:40 am

PFOA found at DuPont plant

DuPont cites 'low levels' of chemical in Chesterfield; EPA reports similar results

Times-Dispatch - November 4, 2006


DuPont said yesterday that it found "low levels" of the chemical PFOA in water samples from the James River and two creeks near a company plant in Chesterfield County.

The controversial, man-made chemical also was detected at higher levels in samples taken from groundwater-monitoring wells on property at the Spruance plant, DuPont said. A spokesman for the federal Environmental Protection Agency said that seven of the eight water samples the agency collected from the site contained PFOA at concentrations he described as "in line with DuPont's results."

PFOA is used as a processing aid in the manufacture of Teflon. The chemical is controversial because it persists in the environment and has been found in the blood of DuPont workers, including some at the Spruance plant. Teflon was manufactured at the plant from 1953 to 2004.

The company collected the samples in August after the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club and the United Steelworkers union said they had found PFOA in water from the James River and from taps in some homes and businesses near the plant.

The EPA hasn't reached a conclusion about PFOA's environmental implications. An EPA science advisory board said it should be considered a likely carcinogen, but DuPont disputes that, saying there is no evidence of human health effects from exposure.

In a statement yesterday, DuPont said PFOA was detected at less than 1 part per billion in a dozen water samples the company took from the James River and Falling Creek, and three samples from Grindall Creek, which runs through the plant property. A plant spokesman equated the PFOA level as one drop of water in an Olympic swimming pool.

Those levels, the company said, "are consistent with general environmental background levels found in places around the world," and "below any current regulatory guidance for drinking water."

Althea Haylett, the plant's safety, health and environmental manager, said the concentrations are lower than those typically found at industrial sites that use or manufacture PFOA and similar chemicals.

DuPont submitted the test results to the EPA and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. A spokesman for DEQ said the agency is reviewing the results and has asked the state health department for input.

Samples taken from groundwater-monitoring wells on the plant property showed concentrations of less than 7.5 parts per billion. EPA spokesman Roy Seneca said the agency's samples showed concentrations below 5.6 parts per billion.

DuPont officials said no PFOA was detected in the effluent of the Spruance plant's groundwater-treatment system, and that concentrations were too low to be quantified in samples from the river near Hopewell and the city's water plant.

Rick Abraham, an environmental consultant for the Steelworkers union, said yesterday that the company's test results confirm the union's concerns. He questioned the company's description of the PFOA concentrations as low.

"High and low are relative terms," he said. "We are still talking about a contamination that is making its way to the river, and it shouldn't be there."

The union has criticized DuPont for its handling of PFOA at other plants. DuPont has said the union, which represents 1,800 employees at other plants but none at Spruance, is using the PFOA issue to pressure the company.

Joshua Low, conservation coordinator for the Sierra Club of Virginia, said the environmental group will comment after reviewing DuPont's test results.

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