Area residents file suit over drinking water

By Carol Kinsley

Five residents of Sussex County have filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of the State of Delaware against E.I. Du Pont Nemours and Co., The Chemours Co., the 3M Co., Procino Plating Inc., a.k.a. Procino Enterprises, a.k.a. Procino, and Blades Development LLC. The Class Action Complaint includes as plaintiffs “other people similarly situated.”

Louis Caro, head of the environmental law department at the law firm Napoli Shkolnik PLLC, said the wording protects others who may likewise be affected. To join the class action suit, one may call the law office at 844-257-6102 or go online to bladeswater.napolilaw.com.

The plaintiffs claim they suffered injuries as a result of the exposure to the introduction of PFOA, FOS and other toxic substances into the drinking water of the town of Blades.

PFOA is perfluorooctanoic acid. PFOS is perfluorooctanesulfonic acid. For decades, the suit charges, the operators of two companies in the town of Blades used products containing these substances and “carelessly discharged PFOA and/or PFOS into the environment, contaminating the ground water and water supply of the town of Blades.”

According to the lawsuit, the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (3M) began producing PFOA via electrochemical fluorination in 1947. Over the years, a number of companies, including DuPont and The Chemours Co., have manufactured PFOA and/or PFOS within the United States. These chemicals are used in the production of nonstick cookware and in the hard chrome plating process. It is believed they also were components of the manufacturing processes conducted by the Procino Enterprises and Peninsula Plating in Blades.

The suit maintains that “Human studies show associations between PFOA and PFOS levels in blood and an increased risk of several health effects” which can arise months or years after exposure.

The 74-page document outlines the background of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) and says “3M, DuPont and Chemours repeatedly assured … the public that their products containing PFCs were safe.”

However, “Internal documents from defendant 3M show that company scientists had been aware of the health risks of PFOA as early as the 1960s.”

By 1980, the document continues, “defendant DuPont had internally confirmed that PFOA ‘is toxic,’ that ‘people accumulate’ the chemical in their bodies after exposure and ‘continued exposure is not tolerable.’”

By the early 1980s, the suit alleges, “DuPont and 3M were sharing their internal studies concerning health and environmental effects associated with exposure to PFOA that (they) were not sharing publicly.” The suit outlines page after page of details indicating human and animal studies showed adverse health effects from exposure to these chemicals.

Still, according to the document, “On at least Jan. 13, 1999, and as recently as December 2017, 3M continued to assure purchasers of its products … and the public that ‘PFOS and PFOA do not present health risks at levels they are typically found in the environment or in human blood’ and that even ‘production workers who were exposed to these chemicals at levels significantly higher than those in the general population – often over an extended period of time…show no adverse health effects.’”

The document describes contamination of the Ohio River; DuPont’s Washington Works plant in West Virginia; the nearby town of Little Hocking, Ohio; the town of Lubeck, W. Va.; and areas of Minnesota near the 3M Cottage Grove facility.

After the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) published its Third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule in 2012, the document explains, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) worked with USEPA “to determine if there was a potential for the town of Blades drinking water wells to contain PFCs due to manufacturing processes that had historically operated in the area.”

DNREC tested the town’s water and “found that all three of the town’s public wells contained concentrations of PFCs averaging twice the federal health advisory level and ranging from 96.2 parts per trillion to 187.1 parts per trillion.”

On Feb. 8, 2018, residents of Blades were warned not to drink water from the town’s municipal wells. Gov. John Carney issued an Executive Directive ordering the Delaware National Guard to help distribute drinking water to residents.

DNREC and the Delaware Health and Social Services Division of Public Health issued a fact sheet outlining what was going on and what the next steps would be.

The fact sheet said, “There are some health concerns, primarily associated with long-term exposures. According to the Agencies for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the effects can include impacts on growth, learning and behavior of children; lowering a woman’s chance of getting pregnant; interfering with the body’s natural hormones; increasing cholesterol levels; affecting the immune system and increasing the risk of cancer. There is limited evidence of the effects, as more research is needed, but the water restrictions are being put in place to end exposures.”

The town installed a new carbon filtration system last year, which took care of the problem, and is planning to replace it with two smaller filters this year, according to Brandon Slater, the town’s water and maintenance supervisor. The town is adding onto the water plant building for that purpose and work on the filters is expected to being July 1.

Slater said eight residents in the area who were not hooked up to the town’s water system were given filters for each of their spigots. More filters were distributed in February 2019.

Mayor John Reiss said he understood the complainants were not residents of Blades; however, the lawsuit indicates that four of the five get their water from the town’s wells. One is on a private well.

A spokesman for 3M responded by email: “3M cares deeply about the safety and health of Delaware’s communities. 3M acted responsibly in connection with products containing PFAS and will vigorously defend its environmental stewardship.”

Dan Turner, media relations leader for DuPont, said, “We do not comment on pending litigation. However, we will vigorously defend our record of safety, health and environmental stewardship.”

A Chemours spokesman sent this statement: “We are aware that a lawsuit was filed in Delaware state court in Sussex County, against a local electroplating company and other parties, including Chemours. We are reviewing the filing and have already identified that it contains significant factual misstatements that we will address in the legal process.

“Chemours does not use PFOA or PFOS in any of its manufacturing processes. In fact, no Chemours plant site had ever used PFOS in its manufacturing processes, and all Chemours plant sites now owned by Chemours had ceased using PFOA at least two years before the company was established.None of those plants were in the state of Delaware.

“Chemours is committed to taking a leadership role in environmental stewardship and has been significantly investing in emission control technologies at our fluoroproducts sites. Chemours previously announced our global corporate responsibility goal to reduce air and water emission of fluorinated organic chemicals by 99 percent or greater.”

Representatives from Procino Enterprises did not respond to a request for comment.

2019-06-20T09:41:27-05:00 June 20th, 2019|SEAFORD-NEWS|