GenX Class Action Suits Consolidated

14.02.2018 -

Lawyers for 100 residents of the US state of North Carolina who claim their health may have been impaired by drinking water contaminated with the “GenX” fluorosurfactant and its predecessor PFOA (C8) have filed a consolidated class action lawsuit against DuPont and Chemours.

The wider lawsuit, which consolidates three previously existing suits, charges that starting in 1980 illegal discharges of the chemicals from the former DuPont plant at Fayetteville (now owned by Chemours) poisoned regional wells as well as municipal drinking water supplies drawn from the Cape Fear River.

This latest class-action suit also seeks funding for an epidemiological study to gauge the impact of PFOA, other polyfluoroalkyl substances and GenX on residents along the river as well as undetermined compensatory and punitive damages for illness, reduced property value, and the cost of water filtration.

In February 2017, DuPont and Chemours agreed to pay $670 million to settle 3,550 lawsuits brought by residents of the states of Ohio and West Virginia who said they were sickened by drinking water contaminated with PFOA released from DuPont’s Washington Works site in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

The problems with Gen X in North Carolina became public mid-2017. DuPont and/or Chemours have been producing the fluoropolymer processing aid at the site since 2009. GenX had been touted as a safer replacement for PFOA, which was previously used in production of DuPont’s signature Teflon-brand non-stick coating.  In some studies with laboratory animals, PFOA has been shown to cause cancer.

After North Carolina began investigating GenX last July, reports said Chemours agreed to stop discharging GenX into the river, but the subsequently turned up in more than 250 private wells near the Fayetteville plant, with the results that thousands of people are said to be still drinking bottled water.

Although state authorities capped a Chemours discharge pipe to the river in November, less than two weeks later GenX turned up in concentrations of 2,300 parts per trillion, more than 16 times the 140 parts per trillion the state considers safe. Researchers are investigating whether the chemical pollution came from soil surrounding the plant or from another source, such as rainwater.

GenX has also been found in wells near the Chemours’ Washington Works in West Virginia, where the earlier contamination with PFOA was discovered. The DuPont spin-off is currently testing drinking supplies on a request from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In January of this year, the EPA informed the chemical producer that GenX had been found in four wells near the facility.

Beyond the earlier settlement, the office of the state attorney general of Ohio last week sued DuPont and Chemours for restitution and damages over the discharges of PFOA into the Ohio River from Washington Works, which it said will leave air, water and soil in the state contaminated for decades.

The Ohio suit accuses DuPont of negligence, statutory and public nuisance and trespassing. Additionally, it seeks punitive and environmental damages, as well as a declaration of DuPont’s duty to compensate the state for expenses related to the contamination. Authorities are also seeking restitution for profits DuPont obtained through its production of C8.

A 2017 study reportedly found that residents of the area had elevated levels of the chemical in their blood as well as “probable links to diseases including kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis and high cholesterol.”

Although, in the spin-off agreement, Chemours agreed to exempt DuPont for liability linked to the chemical, a more recent agreement foresees the two companies sharing liabilities from claims at the site. However, the Ohio lawsuit said Chemours has refused to accept liability for punitive damages.