WASHINGTON, W.Va. – DuPont’s spin-off of its Performance Chemicals division was completed Wednesday as the new entity, Chemours, became a separate, publicly traded company.
“Today, Chemours starts down its own path. It is our birthday, day one,” plant manager Bob Fehrenbacher said in remarks before the flags of Chemours, DuPont and fellow Washington Works tenant Kuraray were raised over the plant for the first time. “Today we are barely a few hours old, but we have over 200 years of history.”
The spin-off plan was announced in 2013. While Chemours focuses on titanium technologies, fluoroproducts and chemical solutions, DuPont will concentrate on areas like agriculture and nutrition, renewable products and industrial biosciences.
Important parts of that work will continue to be done at Washington Works, DuPont plant manager Jay Valvo said, even though the longtime DuPont facility now belongs to Chemours.
More than 700 former DuPont employees now get their paychecks from Chemours, and DuPont continues to employ more than 700 at Washington Works. Even after the split, the local DuPont operation remains “the largest performance polymers site in the world,” said Valvo.
DuPont is committed to investing $20 million in capacity, quality and safety upgrades at Washington Works this year and even more next year, Valvo said.
“We have a strong presence, and we plan to be here for decades to come,” he said.
Fehrenbacher said Chemours has a strong interest in the site since it’s key to the operations of the company. Overall, Chemours is taking on 37 former DuPont production facilities in 12 countries.
Kuraray marketing and media manager Deborah Carpenter was on hand for the ceremony Wednesday. She said a few dozen Kuraray employees on-site made the transition from being DuPont workers when the business was acquired in 2014 and they were showing support for the Chemours workers making a similar transition.
“I think for our employees here it was a big change not to be a part of DuPont when they came to Kuraray,” she said.
At Washington Works, Kuraray manufactures butacite flake that is turned into polyvinyl butyral and used in the manufacture of automobile safety glass.
The Chemours spin-off has been criticized by some who say the new company may not be able to support the potential liabilities it is inheriting from DuPont. That includes the 2005 settlement of a class-action lawsuit over the presence of C8 – a man-made chemical used for years at Washington Works in the Teflon-manufacturing process – in local drinking water supplies.
The settlement left DuPont responsible for water filtration systems for six water districts in the region and a medical monitoring program for residents diagnosed with conditions linked to C8 exposure. In addition, individuals can file suit against the company over C8-linked conditions. None of those cases have gone to trial yet.
A science panel funded by DuPont as part of the settlement found probable links between C8 exposure and kidney cancer, high cholesterol, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and high blood pressure among pregnant women.
Keep Your Promises DuPont, a community-based watchdog organization affiliated with the Action Network Fund, on Wednesday released a letter it had sent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The letter asks the EPA to closely monitor the spin-off “and take steps to ensure that Chemours meets the financial assurance requirements under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) in Parkersburg and at the other facilities affected by this spin-off.
“Without such financial assurances, there is a risk that the costs of cleaning up Chemours’ mess could unjustly fall on taxpayers,” the letter says.
Long-term corrective actions approved under the RCRA require companies to provide “assurances of financial responsibility,” the letter says.
“Now is the best time for the EPA to reevaluate the corrective measures being taken at Washington Works and redouble efforts to ensure that there are adequate financial assurances,” it says.
Keep Your Promises has also challenged a filing for Chemours DuPont made with the Securities and Exchange Commission, saying DuPont understated potential liabilities facing the new company.
DuPont and Chemours officials have repeatedly said the companies remain committed to fulfilling all of their obligations.