PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — An adviser for an environmental watchdog group says the water supplies in Parkersburg and Vienna should be filtered for C8 as new studies suggest the chemical is dangerous in smaller amounts than originally thought.
“There’s no safe limit,” said Dr. Paul Brooks, a Vienna resident whose company Brookmar conducted testing for the original C8 Health Project and who works with Keep Your Promises DuPont, affiliated with the nonprofit Action Network. “There’s no such thing. That’s a pipe dream.”
The presence of C8, or perfluorooctanoic acid, a chemical used in the Teflon-manufacturing process, in local water supplies was the subject of a class-action lawsuit filed against DuPont in 2001. A science panel funded by DuPont as part of the settlement of the suit found probable links between C8 exposure and kidney cancer, high cholesterol, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and high blood pressure in pregnant women.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established a health advisory for C8, which was formerly used at the local Washington Works plant, that sets the acceptable amount of the chemical in water at 0.4 parts per billion. A draft risk health assessment the agency is considering would lower that threshold.
A report released Thursday by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group in conjunction with Keep Your Promises DuPont cites a June paper by professors from Harvard University and Boston University Lowell suggest an “approximate” safe level at 0.001 ppb, based on additional research. The Environmental Working Group’s own calculations set that level at 0.0003 ppb, the report says.
“The science that has come out over the past few years … (points) to the fact that very low doses of C8 cause as much problems as large doses,” Brooks said.
“The new science indicates that all the PFOA standards are more than 1,000 times too weak to fully protect public health,” Bill Walker, investigations editor at the Environmental Working Group and co-author of the new report, said in the Keep Your Promises release. “Even the lowest level detected in nationwide water sampling is about five times higher than what the research says would be dangerous.”
A spokeswoman for Chemours, a company spun off from DuPont that now owns the Washington Works plant, said they support “sound, science-based regulation” of the chemical.
“We do not believe the Grandjean paper includes the most current available data, and we do not believe it includes data that supports an allegation that the interim health advisory level set by EPA in 2009 is far below what would be a safe dose,” said Robin Ollis-Stemple, operations communications manager for Chemours.
The Parkersburg Utility Board’s annual drinking water quality report, released in June, showed PFOA detected at a level of 0.0631 ppb in 2014. The chemical is not listed on Vienna’s water quality report, but U.S. EPA data shows a 2007 post-treatment sample in Vienna had a level of 0.056 ppb.
Both levels are below the current acceptable level issued by the EPA, but above the levels referenced in the Environmental Working Group report.
Utility Board Manager Eric Bennett said Thursday that previous inquiries into filtering C8 out of its water put the price in seven figures.
“It would be a multimillion-dollar upgrade to the (water) treatment plant, and probably add a million dollars a year in operating costs,” he said.
Bennett said the water system is in compliance with mandated guidelines as far as C8 is concerned.
“I can’t speculate what it should be based on multiple other studies out there,” he said. “We’re not scientists. We have to base what we do on the EPA and the BPH’s (West Virginia Bureau of Public Health) guidance.”
Vienna Public Works Director Craig Metz did not return a call seeking comment Thursday.
In the release from Keep Your Promises, Brooks calls on DuPont to provide the filtering, as it has done for six water systems – including Belpre and the Lubeck Public Service District – as a result of the lawsuit settlement.
Ollis-Stemple noted in her emailed response that DuPont complied with the EPA’s PFOA Stewardship Program, phasing out the use of C8 even earlier than its 2015 deadline. The EPA announced last year that federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data showed a 41 percent reduction in the presence of PFOA in human blood from 1999 to 2010.
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