“DuPont ignored the fact that the chemicals they were releasing were toxic, and this settlement ensures that they are held responsible for the pollution they knowingly caused to the environment,” said Gov. Mike DeWine on Wednesday.
Per and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also called PFAS, are resilient chemicals that take thousands of years to break down. Research of the chemicals is ongoing, but studies have shown long-term exposure to PFAS has been linked to health problems including kidney and liver damage and certain kinds of cancer.
The bulk of settlement money will fund clean-up efforts in Southeast Ohio. A total of 80% of the settlement money will go toward addressing pollution at the Washington Works plant in Washington County.
Another 16% will address damages from firefighting foam, which was made using PFAS for decades, and 4% will go toward mitigating damage to natural resources, according to state officials.
A Dayton Daily News investigation this year found that at least 15 area public water systems together serving hundreds of thousands of residents have detected toxic, man-made chemicals at levels that exceed guidelines soon to go into effect from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for what’s considered acceptable in drinking water.
The Miami Valley, too, this year served as a starting point for a state-led study of the origins of PFAS “forever” chemicals in Ohio’s water.
The state filed its lawsuit against DuPont in 2018 in Washington County.
From the 1950s through 2013, DuPont manufactured Teflon products using a specific kind of PFAS: perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA.
The suit alleged DuPont released PFOA-containing emissions and discharges into the air and the Ohio River, all despite knowing about the chemical’s risks to health and the environment.
“This settlement has been a long time coming,” said Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. “We are pleased to have the flexibility through this agreement to preserve our right to advocate for the health of Ohioans and our state’s environment.”
On Monday, another lawsuit against DuPont and 3M Co., a class action suit initiated by a longtime Ohio firefighter, was dismissed in a federal appeals court in Ohio. That suit sought class action status for virtually all Ohioans, alleging collective health damage from PFAS exposure caused by the companies.
The dismissed class action was among thousands of suits filed against or settled with producers of the toxic, manmade chemicals.
Notably, public water systems in Bellbrook and Fairborn, among other cities across the nation, were recently named in a $10.3 billion settlement with PFAS manufacturer 3M Co., a company that produced products with PFAS. Leaders of both cities say they will use settlement money to address PFAS in their water.