Ohio’s attorney general on Thursday sued DuPont and its spin-off Chemours Co. for restitution and damages over the companies’ dumping of a toxic chemical from a plant in West Virginia.
In a 29-page complaint, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said DuPont had released the chemical, known as PFOA or C8, from its Washington Works plant in West Virginia into the Ohio River, contaminating the air, water and lands in neighboring Ohio for decades, despite knowing the danger that it posed.
“DuPont’s intentional and reckless actions have contaminated the natural resources of Ohio and have put Ohio residents at risk,” attorneys for DeWine’s office said in the complaint, filed in the Washington County Court of Common Pleas.
“Through this action, Ohio seeks to recover all past and future costs to investigate, remediate and restor lands and waters of the state contaminated by PFOA discharged and emitted from DuPont’s Washington Works plant or otherwise disposed of by DuPont in Ohio.”
Dan Turner, a spokesman for DuPont, said the company had not yet seen the complaint and could not comment on the suit.
DuPont and Chemours have agreed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years to settle lawsuits related to the dumping, including a $670.7 million global settlement last February to extinguish 3,550 lawsuits in multidistrict litigation centered in Ohio.
As a part of that arrangement, DuPont and Chemours agreed to share costs resulting from environmental releases of C8 from the plant, as well as other potential C8-related liabilities that may arise in the future. Chemours, however, has refused to accept responsibility for punitive damages based on DuPont’s conduct.
DuPont spun off its performance chemicals business to form Chemours, which assumed operations of the Washington Works plant, a 1,200-acre facility along the Ohio River in Wood County, West Virginia.
According to DeWine’s lawsuit, DuPont knew about the health risks associated with C8 by the late 1970s, but decided not to share that information with the public. The complaint accused DuPont and its executives of repeatedly saying that the company knew of no adverse health effects associated with the chemical.
C8 has since been linked to a range of diseases, including cancer, pregnancy-induced hypertension and ulcerative colitis.
“We believe the evidence shows that DuPont kept releasing this chemical even though it knew about the harm it could cause,” DeWine said in a statement. “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.”
The five-count lawsuit accuses DuPont of negligence, statutory and public nuisance and trespass. It seeks punitive and environmental damages, as well as a declaration of DuPont’s duty to compensate Ohio for expenses related to the contamination. The state is also seeking restitution damages for profits DuPont obtained through its production of C8.
Attorneys from Markovits, Stock & DeMarco and Kelley Drye & Warren are representing DeWine in the case, captioned State of Ohio v. E.I. du Pont de Nemours.