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A judge on Monday approved the settlement of a class action lawsuit alleging a chemical used in making the nonstick substance Teflon contaminated water supplies near DuPont Co.’s Washington Works plant in West Virginia. Wood County Circuit Judge George W. Hill called the settlement — in which DuPont agreed to pay at least $107.6 million — “a very shrewdly and competently organized proposal and it seems to be a very unprecedented action by a huge corporate defendant.” Hill noted that the settlement was finalized without any evidence that perfluorooctanoic acid, known as PFOA or C8, caused any disease. The lawsuit was filed in August 2001 on behalf of residents living near the plant, located on the Ohio River about 7 miles southwest of Parkersburg, W. Va., who said their drinking supply was contaminated by PFOA. DuPont has denied any wrongdoing but said in September it decided to enter into the agreement because of the time and expense of litigation. Under the agreement, blood tests will be conducted on current customers of six area water districts, former customers of those suppliers, and residents with private wells. The agreement also calls for DuPont, based in Wilmington, Del., to provide the six drinking water utilities with new treatment equipment to reduce PFOA in water supplies at an estimated cost of $10 million. The company also is to fund a $5 million independent study to determine if PFOA makes people sick and pay $22.6 million in legal fees and expenses for residents who sued. “I think DuPont stepped up to put the matter back where it should be: before scientists,” said Larry Jannsen, the lead attorney for DuPont. Ultimately DuPont could be forced to spend another $235 million on a program to monitor the health of residents who were exposed to the chemical, according to the agreement. “I’ve never seen a class action settlement of this magnitude, which specifically addresses real-life health concerns of class members in the manner that this settlement will do,” said plaintiffs’ attorney, Harry Deitzler. “We set out to find the truth on C-8 and as a result of this settlement we will find the truth,” he said. Participation in the lawsuit does not rule out future litigation against DuPont if the scientific panel finds C8 harmful. DuPont shares fell 66 cents to close at $53.30 in Monday trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock has traded in a 52-week range of $39.88 to $54.34. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten, or redistributed.

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