(10/02/2008)
Thousands of people who drank Parkersburg city water contaminated with C8 cannot sue DuPont Co. in a class action lawsuit over the company's pollution, a federal judge has ruled, according to reporter Ken Ward, Jr. of the Charleston Gazette.

Chief U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin has refused to certify a class of residents in a suit that sought medical monitoring for C8-related illnesses.

The case is being closely watched around the country, with DuPont facing a similar lawsuit in New Jersey and two dozen state-level class action suits that allege C8 leached from Teflon-coated pans.

In a 32-page opinion issued Tuesday, Goodwin said lawyers for Parkersburg residents "presented compelling evidence exposure to C8 may be harmful to human health, and the evidence justifies the concerns expressed by plaintiffs in this case."

But the judge said he remained unconvinced the lawsuit was proper for handling as a single class action, rather than many multiple individual suits.

"I cannot certify a class based on some potential harm to the general public, rather, there must be specific injuries to each member of the proposed class," Goodwin wrote.

"The fact that a public health risk may exist is more than enough to raise concern in the community and call government agencies to action, but it does not show the common individual injuries needed to certify a class action."

C8 is another name for ammonium perfluorooctanoate, or PFOA. DuPont has used the chemical since the 1950s at its Washington Works plant south of Parkersburg. C8 is a processing agent used to make Teflon and other nonstick products, oil-resistant paper packaging and stain-resistant textiles.

The Gazette said around the world, researchers are finding people have C8 and other perfluorochemicals, or PFCs, in their blood at low levels. Evidence is mounting about the chemical's dangerous effects, but regulators have yet to set a federal standard for emissions or human exposure.

In September 2004, DuPont agreed to a $107.6 million settlement with residents of communities around Parkersburg. The money is funding two major studies of C8's health impacts, and DuPont also installed treatment systems to get the chemical out of local water.

Then-Wood Circuit Court Judge George W. Hill had certified those communities' case as a class action. But at the time the settlement deal was made, C8 had not yet been found in the Parkersburg city water supply. Later, C8 was detected there, and a follow-up lawsuit was filed, wrote Ward.

So the follow-up case against DuPont ended up in federal court. Goodwin was asked to allow the case to proceed on behalf of everyone who has been a Parkersburg water customer for at least one year since Nov. 1, 2005.

Lawyers for the residents presented evidence that Parkersburg city water has more C8 in it than the amount that prompted DuPont to settle the 2004 case.

See Ken Ward's article   wvgazette.com


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