December 14, 2005

DuPont to pay $16.5 million in EPA case

By Steve James

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Chemicals maker DuPont Co. agreed on
Wednesday to pay $16.5 million to settle with the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency over reporting data about a
potentially hazardous compound used to make non-stick cookware.

"This is the largest civil administrative penalty the EPA
has every obtained under any environmental statute. Not by a
little, by a lot," said Granta Nakayama, assistant
administrator for the EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance

The agreement, subject to final approval by the EPA
Environmental Appeals Board, would resolve four counts of
reporting violations filed in 2004 under the Toxic Substances
Control Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

Four additional counts, raised by the agency in 2005, also
were resolved, the Wilmington, Delaware-based chemical company
said. The settlement closes the matter involving
perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, for DuPont, without any
admission of liability, it added.

However, DuPont still faces class action lawsuits filed in
July, charging the chemical producer hid the potential health
hazards of PFOA.

The plaintiffs are calling for DuPont to pay damages to
class members, create a fund for medical monitoring of
consumers who purchased products containing PFOA and put
warning labels on cookware.

Also, in May, DuPont received a subpoena from the U.S.
Justice Department's Environmental Crimes Section to turn over
documents about PFOA. A company spokesman said on Wednesday
that DuPont is cooperating and has handed over certain
documents to the Justice Department.

Following Wednesday's announcement of a settlement in the
EPA cases, DuPont said it will pay $10.25 million in fines and
an additional $6.25 million for two supplemental environmental
projects to be undertaken.

These include funding for a research program to evaluate
the potential for fluorotelomer biodegradation as well as
funding for microchemistry and green chemistry programs in
certain West Virginia schools.

In September, DuPont agreed to pay $85 million to residents
in West Virginia and Ohio to settle a lawsuit over the release
of PFOA into the water supply at its Washington Works plant in
West Virginia.

"Our interpretation of the reporting requirements differed
from the agency's," said DuPont General Counsel Stacey Mobley.
"The settlement allows us to put this matter behind us and move
forward. We have already cut PFOA emissions from U.S. plant
sites by 98 percent, and we are committed to reducing those
emissions by 99 percent by 2007."

The EPA's Nakayama said: "EPA takes violations of toxic
substances laws seriously and is committed to enforcing those
laws. This settlement sends a strong message that companies are
responsible for promptly informing EPA about risk information
associated with their chemicals."

DuPont said its studies and those from independent
researchers confirm that cookware and other consumer products
made with DuPont materials are safe. In addition, it said, PFOA
to date has had no known health effects on humans.

PFOA, also known as C-8, is used in the process of making
non-stick coatings such as Teflon. Tests by 3M Co., the
original manufacturer of PFOA, have shown high levels of
exposure to the chemical may cause liver damage and
reproductive problems in rats.

PFOA can remain in humans for up to four years, according
to the EPA, and small amounts of the chemical are found in a
large portion of the general U.S. public.

"We are pleased that as a direct result of this settlement
with DuPont, valuable information will be produced for the
scientific community to better understand the presence of PFOA
in the environment and any potential risks it poses to the
public," said Susan Hazen, EPA's Principal Deputy Assistant
Administrator for the Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and
Toxic Substances.

(Additional reporting by Chris Baltimore)