Fact Sheet: EPA, DuPont Agree on Measures to Protect Drinking Water Near the DuPont Washington Works
Recent studies of a chemical called C-8 (or PFOA, perfluorooctanoic acid) have prompted a new legal agreement that changes the way people in West Virginia and Ohio who live near the DuPont Washington Works facility will be protected from C-8 contamination in their drinking water. Under the terms of the agreement - known as a "consent order" - between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and E.I. Dupont de Nemours & Co., DuPont must take certain actions when the C-8 level in water supplies reaches 0.50 parts per billion (ppb).
In a 2002 consent order, DuPont agreed to provide residents with bottled water or install water treatment equipment when the level of C-8 in drinking water was measured at 150 ppb. Recent studies, however, show that people who live in the vicinity of DuPont's Washington Works plant near Parkersburg, W.Va., have a median C-8 level of 298 to 369 ppb in their bloodstreams. This is much higher than the 5.0 ppb found on average in the blood of the general U.S. population. New studies have demonstrated various kinds of toxic effects on experimental animals, and the results are a concern for public health. Therefore, the new consent order between EPA and DuPont that took effect Nov. 20, 2006 lowers the "action level" to 0.50 ppb.
Under the agreement, DuPont will offer alternative drinking water or treatment for public or private water users living near the Washington Works plant if the level of C-8 detected in drinking water is equal to or greater than 0.50 ppb. C-8 is removed by using Granular Activated Carbon Treatment. Boiling water does not remove C-8.
The greatest concern is for those living near Du Pont's Washington Works facility. The plant, which uses C-8 in its manufacturing process, is the source of the C-8 in underground sources of drinking water (commonly known as "ground water").
About 12,000 people in Little Hocking and 9,000 in Lubeck are served by public water systems that do not yet treat water for C-8. Other communities in the area may be affected.
Residents of Little Hocking are currently being offered bottled water by DuPont under the terms of an agreement that resulted from a civil lawsuit. EPA was not a party to that lawsuit, and not a party to the settlement. The average concentration of C-8 in the water from the Little Hocking public water system is between 1 and 7 ppb. The state of Ohio has approved the permits needed for construction of a treatment facility, but there is no definite date for construction.
The residents of Lubeck do not have a bottled water agreement with DuPont. The concentration of C-8 in the town's public water system is not consistently above the 0.50 ppb action level; the concentrations of C-8 have ranged from 0.4 to 1.1 ppb since 2002. West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources has approved necessary permits, and a treatment system is expected to be completed within six months after all necessary state and local approvals are received. The system is expected to be in operation by June 2007.
Where granular activated carbon treatment has been installed in a water system, consumers are receiving water that has a C-8 level of less than 0.01 ppb, well below the site-specific action level of 0.50 ppb. Some area public water systems, including Belpre, Tupper Plains/Chester and Pomeroy, are already treating water for C-8. The Mason County system is not yet treating for C-8. None of these four systems have shown levels of C-8 greater than 0.50 ppb in their source water.
As for private water systems - primarily water wells for private homes - DuPont tested a large number and installed treatment equipment on 78 systems. Of those, only 30 had C-8 levels of 0.50 ppb or above.
People who live in the C-8 contaminated water areas may reduce their exposure to C-8 by not drinking the water until treatment systems are installed on their public water supply or on their private well system.
EPA does not recommend that individuals have their drinking water tested. DuPont is required, under the terms of the new consent order, to conduct a survey of geographical areas - to be defined by EPA - to determine if additional public or private water systems have source water that exceeds the 0.50 ppb C-8 action level. EPA has already identified areas between Little Hocking and Belpre Public Service districts that have not been sampled previously by DuPont, but which may have concentrations of C-8 equal to or exceeding 0.50 ppb. This area will be further evaluated and refined in consultation with Ohio and West Virginia as analytical data become available.
If individuals still wish to have their water tested, only a limited number of labs can analyze water for C-8. EPA does not have a complete list of labs capable of doing this analysis nor do we certify labs for analysis of C-8.
There is no consensus on how C-8 may affect people. However, concerns have been raised because of data from animal experiments and data on blood samples from people who live near the Washington Works facility. More studies are in progress, but results may not be available for several more years. In the meantime, the new action level will reduce local exposure to C-8 from drinking water and reduce the possibility of adverse health effects.
Background: What is C-8?
C-8 is a man-made chemical that resists heat, water, oil, grease and stains. It is used in making common household and industrial items such as non-stick pots and pans, flame resistant and water-proof clothing, wire coatings, and chemical resistant tubing. C-8 can also be formed by the breakdown of other highly fluorinated chemicals used in stain-resistant carpets and fabrics, stain-resistant paints, fire fighting foam, and oil- and grease-resistant food cartons and wrappers. C-8 does not occur naturally in the environment and is highly persistent, with little or no degradation occurring in air, water or soil.
History of the Order
This order is a revision of an Emergency Administrative Order on Consent that was issued in 2002 under the authority of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Section 1431 of the SDWA requires a finding that "...a contaminant is present in or is likely to enter a public water system or underground source of drinking water.... which may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to the health of persons." It does not require a conclusive finding that a contaminant has, or definitely will, cause harm.
The 2002 order contained a temporary threshold value of 150 ppb C-8. This new order establishes a temporary "site-specific action level" of 0.50 ppb C-8, based on new information available about blood serum levels of C-8 in the local population and recent scientific studies. The 0.50 ppb site-specific action level for C-8 is a threshold for DuPont to provide treatment or alternate water to public and private water users in the vicinity of the Washington Works facility. EPA is currently conducting a risk assessment under the Toxic Substances Control Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 2601 et. seq; until the risk assessment process is complete there will not be a reference dose or maximum contaminant level for drinking water.
West Virginia and Ohio have relied on EPA to review the existing 2002 Order and have requested EPA's assistance with this matter.
Occurrence of C-8 in drinking water and human blood serum
The average blood serum concentration of C-8 in humans in the United States is approximately 5.0 ppb. People can absorb C-8 through ingestion, inhalation and their skin. We do not know which routes of exposure account for the background levels of C-8 in the general population.
However, in the vicinity of the Washington Works plant, the residents' median blood serum ranges from approximately 298 to 369 ppb C-8. The drinking water levels in nearby water systems have averaged approximately 1 to 20 ppb C-8. The high blood serum levels in the residents are attributed to accumulation of C-8 in the blood stream and the slow elimination of C-8 from the human body. The half-life of C-8 in humans is approximately 3.8 years. Half-life is the time required to reduce the chemical to one-half the initial concentration. For example, with no additional C-8 input it will take approximately four years for blood values of 100 ppb to be reduced to 50 ppb. Ingestion of C-8 through drinking water is considered a major source of the C-8 found in human blood in the vicinity of the DuPont Washington Works facility. Reducing exposure to C-8 in drinking water will reduce the accumulation of C-8 in residents in the vicinity of the facility.
While much is known about the occurrence of C-8 in the vicinity of DuPont's Washington Works facility, C-8 is not a regulated drinking water contaminant. Therefore, public water systems are not required to monitor for C-8. In other areas where limited sampling has been done, the levels of C-8 reported in the environment and in drinking water have been much lower generally than the levels found in the community affected by this order.
Recent Information on Which This Order is Based
Since the 2002 order was issued, we have new information about the blood serum concentrations of residents in the vicinity of the Washington Works facility. Recent animal studies have shown various kinds of toxicity including liver toxicity and adverse developmental effects, which are of concern for human health protection. EPA and DuPont agreed to revise the existing order.
Other Legal Actions
On Nov. 15, 2001, DuPont, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources entered into an agreement on consent which required that a toxicological and human health risk assessment of C-8 be conducted under the supervision of a C-8 assessment of toxicity team. Ground water and surface water monitoring and plume identification in West Virginia and Ohio were conducted under the supervision of a ground water investigation team.
An order issued in 2005 as part of a civil suit filed in August 2001, in Wood County, West Virginia, Leach, et al v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Company required collection of blood serum and health data from approximately 70,000 people covered by the suit (the collection of blood serum and health data is known as the Brookmar Study). It also provided for the installation of carbon filters for six public water service districts in West Virginia and Ohio. EPA was not a party to the civil action or the settlement that resolved the action. EPA will, however, evaluate data produced by these studies as well as other information currently being produced, as part of the agency's ongoing review of data in the risk assessment process.
Major Human Health Studies in Progress
C-8 Health Project: As of June 2006, about 64,000 people completed questionnaires and had blood drawn. Brookmar Inc. has been hired to collect and compile the health data and blood serum levels. Then a three-member science panel will assess whether there are adverse health effects to humans associated with elevated levels of C-8 in the blood serum. Although the full results of the study are not expected until about 2011, the blood serum concentrations are available to those who have participated. Ohio Department of Health, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and West Virginia Department of Health Human Resources wanted to have reference materials available to local physicians as their patients received data. Information is available at the following website: www.odh.ohio.gov/odhPrograms/eh/hlth_as/chemfs1.aspx
Status of EPA Risk Assessment on C-8
Under the Toxic Substances Control Act, EPA is evaluating C-8 and related perfluorochemicals. A formal risk assessment process is under way. EPA's Science Advisory Board completed a review of a draft risk assessment of C-8 in 2006 and the board made recommendations for the further development of the risk assessment. A final risk assessment may not be completed for several years. Once a final risk assessment is completed, or if further information about the health effects of C-8 indicate it is necessary, the site-specific action level of 0.50 ppb C-8 established in this order will be reevaluated. The agency is funding additional research regarding the toxicity of C-8 and other perfluorochemicals, as well as research to help identify where these chemicals are coming from and how people may be exposed to them.
Other EPA Actions on C-8
The EPA risk assessment on C-8 will take time to complete, but the agency has already taken action to reduce the amount of C-8 getting into the environment. In January 2006, EPA invited the major companies in the industry to commit to a voluntary, global PFOA Stewardship Program. All of the invited companies, including DuPont, have committed to the goals of the program, which include reducing C-8 and related chemicals from facility emissions and from the content of products by 95 percent by 2010, and working toward elimination of these chemicals from releases and the content of products by 2015. The companies are submitting reports on their past activities and on their progress toward the Stewardship Program goals to EPA.
If You Want to Know More
EPA Contact for general information about this order:
Karen Johnson, johnson. firstname.lastname@example.org, 215-814-5445
For information on the PFOA Stewardship Program and on the risk assessment: www.epa.gov/oppt/pfoa.
For reference materials and information on the C-8 Health Project, residents and physicians can refer to the documents available on these Web sites: www.odh.ohio.gov/odhPrograms/eh/hlth_as/chemfs1.aspx and www.c8healthproject.org