Chemical giants DuPont de Nemours, Corteva and Chemours reached a $110 million settlement with the state of Ohio late last month over PFAS contamination claims.
The settlement is regarding chemical contamination from DuPont’s Washington Works factory in Parkersburg, West Virginia. The state claimed emissions of the PFAS chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) from the factory harmed nearby Ohio residents’ health and contaminated the environment for more than 70 years.
Of the $110 million, 80% will go toward addressing the state’s natural resources due to operations at the Washington Works plant, located along the Ohio-West Virginia border. Sixteen percent of the funds will be used to address damage caused by PFAS-containing firefighting foam, and the final 4% will go to mitigating damage to natural resources, according to the Ohio governor’s office.
“This settlement is a victory for all Ohioans, especially those living along the Ohio River near the Parkersburg plant,” Gov. Mike DeWine said in a statement. “DuPont ignored the fact that the chemicals they were releasing were toxic, and this settlement ensures that they are held responsible for the pollution they knowingly caused to the environment.”
Chemours will pay 50% of the settlement, while DuPont and Corteva will pay the remaining half.
The settlement is part of a memorandum of understanding agreement the companies reached with Ohio in January 2021 regarding how to split financial liability for PFAS contamination lawsuit claims made by Ohio against the companies. The agreement settled multidistrict personal injury PFAS claims in Ohio that alleged residents’ health issues were connected to the chemical company’s use of PFOA.
As part of the deal, the three companies also established an escrow account used for future legacy PFAS contamination claims lodged against the companies before Chemours was spun off of DuPont in 2015.
DuPont owned the Washington Works plant beginning when it opened in 1948. The site began producing Teflon and plastics in 1951.
Chemours took over the Washington Works site and Teflon production in 2015 when DuPont broke off Chemours and Corteva as their own separate entities. Washington Works still produces fluoropolymer products, according to the Chemours website.
In April, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered Chemours to address the PFAS pollution released by the plant into stormwater and identify the extent of contamination from the discharges. The directive was the first EPA Clean Water Act enforcement action taken to hold companies accountable for discharging PFAS into the environment.
The Washington Works plant is an infamous entity in the history of PFAS litigation. The plant was the first PFAS-producing chemical site to be investigated in the U.S. after West Virginian farmer Wilbur Earl Tennant and environmental attorney Robert Bilott accused DuPont of knowingly dumping harmful PFAS contaminants into the surrounding community in the late 1990s.
The case kick-started the era of increased scrutinization of the impacts of PFAS on humans and the environment. It led states and cities to file their own suits against the companies, many of which are ongoing today.