DOVER, Del. (AP) — DuPont Co. agreed to pay $10.25 million in fines and $6.25 million for environmental projects to settle charges by the Environmental Protection Agency that the company hid information about a toxic chemical used to make the nonstick coating Teflon.
The settlement announced yesterday represents the largest civil administrative penalty obtained by the EPA under any federal environmental statute, surpassing a $6 million penalty levied more than a decade ago in a Tennessee case involving polychlorinated biphenyls.
“This sends a strong message that companies are responsible for promptly giving EPA risk information associated with their chemicals,” said Granta Nakayama, EPA’s assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance.
The settlement involves EPA accusations that DuPont violated the Toxic Substances Control Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act by withholding information about the potential health and environmental risks posed by perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA.
“Frankly, we could have litigated this thing for several years,” said DuPont general counsel Stacey Mobley. “We wanted to get this thing behind us so we could move forward.”
The EPA contended that DuPont withheld information for more than 20 years about the health effects of PFOA, also known as C-8, and about the pollution of water supplies around the company’s Washington Works plant near Parkersburg, W.Va.
Among other things, the EPA said DuPont knew as early as 1981 from studies of pregnant workers that the chemical could be transmitted through a woman’s placenta to her fetus. The EPA did not learn of the 1981 study until 2001, when results were provided to the agency by a lawyer representing Parkersburg-area residents in a class-action lawsuit against DuPont.
“This information should have been immediately reported to EPA,” Ms. Nakayama said. “… This was the first and only information about human placental transfer and PFOA levels in children.”
The settlement resolves EPA’s primary complaint over failure to report information about transplacental movement of PFOA, as well as seven other counts. Those additional counts involve failure to report information concerning contamination of drinking water, EPA requests for toxicity data, elevated blood levels of PFOA in people living near the Washington Works plant, and toxicity data from inhalation studies with rats.
In reaching the settlement agreement, which must be approved by the EPA Environmental Appeals Board, DuPont did not admit any liability.
“Our interpretation of the reporting requirements differed from the agency’s,” said Mr. Mobley, who noted that the company has cut PFOA emissions from U.S. plant sites by 98 percent and hopes to reduce emissions even further by 2007.