MARIETTA, Ohio — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has filed a lawsuit against the chemical company DuPont, alleging that for decades, DuPont released a toxic chemical from its plant on the Ohio River, despite knowing the risks it posed to Ohio’s citizens and natural resources.
The lawsuit seeks restitution and damages for Ohio. It says DuPont should bear the cost of investigating and cleaning up contamination from the chemical — perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) — which DuPont used to manufacture Teflon products from the 1950s through 2013.
“We believe the evidence shows that DuPont kept releasing this chemical even though it knew about the harm it could cause,” Attorney General DeWine said. “We believe DuPont should pay for any damage it caused, and we’re taking this action to protect Ohio, its citizens, and its natural resources.”
PFOA, also known as C8, is a man-made chemical that is not found naturally in the environment. Exposure to PFOA has been linked to health problems in humans, including kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, low birth weight, and high cholesterol. It builds up and persists in the blood, and it is known to be toxic and carcinogenic in animals. It is extremely persistent in the environment, in both water and soil, and is resistant to typical environmental degradation processes.
According to the lawsuit, DuPont released PFOA from its Washington Works Plant for decades, even while its own internal research and medical staff concluded that PFOA was toxic to humans and to the environment, and that community members were at risk of exposure.
Instead of notifying the community or taking steps to reduce the risk, DuPont allegedly increased its use of PFOA, releasing more PFOA into the air, water, and land around the plant and contaminating soil and water in Ohio.
A 2017 University of Cincinnati study, which analyzed blood samples collected between 1991 and 2012, found that residents of the Mid-Ohio River Valley had elevated levels of PFOA.
The Attorney General’s lawsuit alleges, among several counts, that DuPont negligently caused environmental contamination and created a public nuisance by allowing PFOA to enter air, soil, and water in Ohio.
In the lawsuit, Attorney General DeWine seeks relief including:
- A declaration of DuPont’s duty to compensate Ohio for expenses related to the contamination.
- Damages for injury to Ohio’s natural resources, including the economic impact to the state and its residents.
- An award of present and future costs to clean up PFOA contamination.
- Restitution damages for profits DuPont obtained through the conduct.
The defendants named in the lawsuit are E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. (DuPont) and The Chemours Company, a spin-off business of DuPont’s that was founded in 2015 and assumed operations of DuPont’s performance chemicals business.
The lawsuit was filed in Washington County Common Pleas Court.