In mid-February, a settlement was reached between the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and an international chemical company that had operated a facility in Delaware from 1998 to 2020, where they processed polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). The DNREC found that hazardous chemicals were present in the soil and water and took the company to court. The DNREC did their testing in July 2020. A few months later, it was found that the chemical company was potentially responsible for releasing hazardous perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) into the environment, leading to PFAS contamination.
PTFE is a synthetic resin that is slippery, resistant to other chemicals, and has a high melting point. It is mostly used in non-stick cookware and industrial products, like pipelines, valves, pumps, and bearings.
PFAS are similar to PTFEs, and are widely used around the world. The main difference is in the processing; PFAS are processed through screw extrusion techniques. These chemicals can be found in food packaging, household products, polishes, firefighting foams, and cleaners.
There is significant evidence showing that PFAS can cause serious health problems. Exposure can lead to higher cholesterol levels, problems in the immune system, thyroid issues, low infant birth weights, ulcerative colitis, and cancer. PFAS have also caused tumors in animals. This is why environmental agencies like the DNREC conduct testing to see if PFAS are present in soil and groundwater.
During the case, the DNREC determined that perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) was released, which is a PFAS chemical. PFOA water contamination can lead to health complications. PFOAs are considered to be hazardous substances by the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA). During the July 2020 site inspection, PFOA were discovered immediately upstream of the company’s exhausts and filters, as well as in the groundwater, surface water, sediment, and soil near the building.
A news release stated that DNREC’s testing did not identify any known potentials for health concerns in the surrounding neighborhoods. There is a blood test that can detect the presence of PFAS in the blood, but it cannot predict if future health problems will occur. It is not a standard blood test, but it can be given upon request.
The DNREC offered the chemical company the opportunity to enter a voluntary cleanup program in the state as part of the Hazardous Substance Cleanup Act. The company did apply back in December, however, their application was later rejected because it was insufficient.
The chemical company must complete a comprehensive environment investigation at the facility site as well as the surrounding areas. They are also required to create and execute a remediation plan. The company claims that it is not liable for releasing the chemicals into the environment.
Exposure to toxic chemicals can lead to serious health complications. If you have been exposed to dangerous chemicals in your environment, a Wilmington toxic tort lawyer at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. can help you. For a free consultation, complete our online form or call us at 302-656-5445. Located in Wilmington and Millsboro, Delaware, we serve clients throughout Dover, New Castle County, and Sussex County.