Clean Up After PFC Contamination

Cleaning Up After PFCs Isn’t Cheap: Part One

Clean Up After PFC Contamination compounds—in drinking water. (“Philadelphia Environmental Lawyers Reveal Landfills Harboring Harmful PFCs”, and “New Jersey’s PFOA Recommendation Raises New Concerns”) We were reminded of these heath risks again when a federal court jury in Ohio awarded $2 million to a 56 year old truck driver suffering from testicular cancer. The plaintiff was exposed to PFOA—a perfluorinated compound with eight carbon atoms also known as C-8—in drinking water polluted by a Dupont plant in West Virginia.

This is the third trial DuPont has lost. In October 2015 a jury awarded $1.6 million to a kidney cancer victim; in July 2016 a jury awarded $5.1 million to another testicular cancer victim. The jury later added $500,000 in punitive damages.

There is a distinct possibility of a punitive damage verdict in this most recent case. The jury found that DuPont acted with “actual malice.” Whether DuPont should pay punitive damages to this victim will be determined in another phase of the trial, to begin Jan. 4th, 2017. Three other cases, one involving ulcerative colitis and two involving kidney cancer, have settled for confidential amounts.

But this was not the week’s most interesting story about DuPont and PFCs. That story came out of Carney’s Pont N.J., which the local municipality sued DuPont for over $1 billion arising out of what some people have called “financial strip mining” by the company.

In June 2016, DuPont proudly announced a “merger of equals” with The Dow Chemical company. Like a middle-aged man in a mid-life crisis, DuPont cast off its loyal spouse of many years, its chemical business, into a much smaller separate company—Chemours—in order to facilitate its marriage to Dow. As a parting gift to Chemours, it stuck the latter with the responsibility to indemnify DuPont for all of its liabilities for pollution, chemical contamination and toxic torts. This is estimated to be at least $300 million for cleanup costs alone. The company has further estimated that its actual cleanup liability could cost an additional $600 million. And this does not include what it will have to pay for the 3,500 lawsuits filed over the PFOA contamination caused by DuPont’s West Virginia plant. This is a real problem, since, according to its latest balance sheets, Chemours has shareholders’ equity of less than $400 million.