Originally posted on Delaware Online The News Journal by Karl Baker on December 26, 2017.
As DowDuPont executives steer operations away from a toxic past, the recently merged company continues to face steep financial sanctions for what environmental regulators say are previous releases of lead, arsenic and other pollutants.
This month, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered DowDuPont, Chemours and four other companies to fund its latest $26 million soil and dust cleanup at the USS Lead Superfund site, an area that includes houses and a school in East Chicago, Indiana.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the polluted area is one of a handful in the country that is “receiving his immediate and intense attention.”
Next to the site sits a former Freon facility, once operated by DuPont. The EPA in November announced a proposal for a separate $23 million soil and groundwater cleanup directly on the 440-acre property, which is now owned by Chemours.
“The proposed cleanup at the former DuPont site further demonstrates EPA’s commitment to finding solutions to protect the health and safety of East Chicago residents,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a November statement.
For decades, DuPont’s East Chicago property produced Freon, a refrigerant that became an industry standard, and anchored company revenues. Yet waste from the production of the chemical “included acids, boron, arsenic, chromium, lead and antimony pentachloride,” according to the EPA.
Lead can damage the hearts, livers, kidneys and brains of people exposed to the heavy metal, particularly children.
In early 2015, DuPont shed the property from its balance sheet, transferring it and many of its legacy products to its spinoff, Chemours.
While the East Chicago cleanup is the latest multi-million-dollar environmental sanction to face DuPont and Chemours, the financial toll is dwarfed by a $671 million settlement the companies agreed to pay plaintiffs earlier this year to settle 3,550 lawsuits related to the release of PFOA, a toxic chemical, in West Virginia.
Both companies also have been named in multiple lawsuits filed in North Carolina over the release of the unregulated chemical, GenX, into the drinking water of people in the state.