(ENS) -- DuPont has agreed to pay a $10.25 million fine for failing to report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) risk information about a chemical used in the manufacture of fluoropolymers, including some TeflonĘ products.
Fluoropolymers impart desirable properties, including fire resistance and oil, stain, grease, and water repellency. They are used to provide non-stick surfaces on cookware and waterproof, breathable membranes for clothing.
Under the settlement, filed with the agency's Environmental Appeals Board, Dupont is also committing to $6.25 million for Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs), for a total of $16.5 million.
The fine is the largest civil administrative penalty ever obtained by the EPA under any federal environmental statute, the agency said, announcing the settlement Wednesday.
"This is the largest civil administrative penalty EPA has ever obtained under any environmental statue. Not by a little, by a lot," said Granta Nakayama, assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "This settlement sends a strong message that companies are responsible for promptly informing EPA about risk information associated with their chemicals."
The settlement, which still must be approved by the Appeals Board, would resolve violations at DuPont's Washington Works facility in Washington, West Virginia related to the synthetic chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) under provisions of both the Toxic Substances Control Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
The settlement resolves the four violations alleged in the EPA's two complaints filed against DuPont in July and December 2004, and settles four additional counts involving information about PFOA that EPA obtained after initiating its action against DuPont.
As part of this settlement, DuPont has agreed to undertake two Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) valued at $6.25 million.
The first SEP, valued at $5 million and to be completed in three years, is a project designed to investigate the potential of nine of DuPont's fluorotelomer products to break down to form PFOA.
This SEP will help industry, scientists, the public and the EPA examine the potential sources of PFOA in the environment and potential routes of human exposure to PFOA.
The public will have an opportunity to nominate members to a Peer Consultation Panel, an independent group of scientists who will address specific charges identified in the SEP. For the second SEP, DuPont will spend $1.25 million to implement the Microscale and Green Chemistry Project at schools in Wood County, West Virginia. This three year long SEP will foster science laboratory curriculum changes to reduce risks posed by chemicals in schools.
Using microscale chemistry, which reduces exposure to chemicals, and green chemistry, an approach that uses safer chemicals, the project will reduce risks to children's health and enhance science safety in all of the participating schools.
"We are pleased that as a direct result of this settlement with DuPont, valuable information will be produced for the scientific community to better understand the presence of PFOA in the environment and any potential risks it poses to the public," said Susan Hazen, EPA's principal deputy assistant administrator for the Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances.
The EPA began its investigation because PFOA is very persistent in the environment, was being found at very low levels both in the environment and in the blood of the general U.S. population, and caused developmental and other adverse effects in laboratory animals.
DuPont violated the Toxic Substances Control Act through multiple failures to report information to EPA about substantial risk of injury to human health or the environment that DuPont obtained about PFOA from as early as 1981 and as recently as 2004 on human health, environmental contamination, and animal toxicity studies.
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