Consent Order Sets Interim Drinking Water Standard for Teflon Chemical In West Virginia, Ohio Communities
On Nov. 21, EPA announced it signed a consent order with E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Co. establishing a precautionary interim screening level for perfluorooctanoic acid -- also known as PFOA or C8 -- in drinking water sources around the DuPont Washington Works plant in Wood County, W.Va.
The agreement affects people in West Virginia and Ohio living near the Washington Works plant. Under the order, DuPont will offer alternative drinking water or water treatment for public or private water users living near the plant if the level of PFOA detected in drinking water is equal to or greater than 0.50 parts per billion (ppb). This level replaces the 150 ppb threshold set in 2002 as a temporary measure to reduce levels of PFOA exposure for residents while the agency finishes research required for a risk assessment.
"By agreeing to a stricter PFOA action level now in the vicinity of the facility, EPA and DuPont are taking additional steps to protect local public health while EPA completes a risk assessment for PFOA," said Donald S. Welsh, EPA Region 3 administrator.
PFOA is used in the manufacturing process of fluoropolymers, including some Teflon® products. Fluoropolymers are used to provide non-stick surfaces on cookware and waterproof, breathable membranes for clothing. PFOA is very persistent in the environment and is found at low levels both in the environment and in the blood of the general U.S. population, EPA officials said. Studies indicate that PFOA can cause developmental and other adverse effects in laboratory animals.
PFOA has been used since the 1950s at DuPont's Washington Works facility. In recent years, EPA and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection have taken actions to protect communities from PFOA contamination of drinking water. In November 2001, West Virginia issued a consent order directing DuPont to monitor groundwater near the Washington Works plant for discharges of PFOA, and conduct a study of the public health impacts of PFOA releases.
The major companies using PFOA, including DuPont, have joined the PFOA Stewardship Program initiated by EPA. These companies have committed to reduce PFOA from emissions and product content by 95 percent by 2010, and to work toward eliminating PFOA emissions and content by 2015.
"We agree with EPA that exposures should be reduced among residents in the local West Virginia and Ohio communities through the establishment of this precautionary level for drinking water," said Bill Hopkins, Washington Works plant manager. "We are well underway in implementing the measures set forth in this agreement by offering alternative water supplies to community residents, and have made significant progress in applying granular activated carbon treatment technology to successfully remove PFOA in three area water districts. We also have reduced PFOA emissions from our U.S. facilities by 97 percent since 2000 as part of our voluntary commitment to the EPA 2010/15 PFOA Stewardship Program."
For more information on PFOA and the stewardship program, visit http://www.epa.gov/oppt/pfoa.
The text of the consent agreement is available in PDF format at http://www.epa.gov/region03/enforcement/dupont_order.pdf, and a fact sheet with more details on the order is available at http://www.epa.gov/region03/enforcement/dupont_factsheet.html.
This article originally appeared in the 11/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.