3M senior vice president Denise Rutherford
WASHINGTON D.C. (Legal Newsline) – Representatives of three major companies told congressional investigators on Monday they will work with government officials to mitigate potential damage to the nation’s drinking water caused by use of a chemical called polyfluoralkyl or PFAS .
“The most recent tests have shown that PFAS (rates) have declined in humans by more than 70 percent,” said Denise Rutherford, senior vice president with 3M Company. “This shows progress. We are committed to work with Congress and regulators to develop a collaborative scientific approach to PFAS.”
However, some members of a congressional subcommittee appeared to be dubious about the promises made by the three witnesses called to testify.
Also appearing at the hearing were representatives of DuPont and Chemours Company, a spin-off of DuPont based in Delaware.The hearing is the third in a series to consider how to regulate PFAS chemicals and if the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should enact stricter water drinking standards.
PFAS are a group of chemicals that are used in products such as waterproof clothing, non-stick cookware and fire-fighting foam. They are now found in groundwater and humans, dubbed “forever chemicals” because they don’t leave the human body.
Rutherford said planned abatement actions by the company included remediation at sites where PFAS chemicals were disposed of, and to make sure that fire-fighting foam containing the chemicals is taken back from customers and handled properly.
Paul Kirsch president of Chemours Company told the subcommittee he wanted to leave his children with a cleaner and better world.
“The public is rightly concerned over water quality and Chemours must do its part,” he said. “Our team takes seriously the responsibility to manage PFAS in a responsible way in the manufacturing process and to insure safety.”
Kirsch said the company’s North Carolina facility would reduce PFAC emissions by 99 percent by the end of the year.
"Economic progress and environmental protection are not contradictory," he said.
Darryl Roberts chief engineering officer with DuPont said the company does not manufacture PFAS chemicals including the firefighting foams he said make up the majority of the chemicals used.
He called on the EPA to set national primary drinking water regulations regarding PFAS within two years in addition to water treatment and effluent standards, and require toxic release reports.
“We are committed to ending using PFAS firefighting foams at our facilities by the end of 2021,” Roberts said. ‘We will provide research funding for PFAS remediation. We will continue to fulfill our commitment to remediate our sites.”
Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib representing Michigan’s 13th District asked Roberts if DuPont is no longer marketing PFAS chemicals.
“That’s correct,” Roberts said.
“So regardless of the money made is it your opinion DuPont is not liable for the costs to clean up contamination and for the human injuries DuPont caused?” Tlaib asked.
“What we’re accountable for is to insure that we clean up the sites we own and operate,” Roberts said.
“Other sites you contaminated you don’t want to pay for them or for the injuries?”
Roberts indicated Chemours Company was still operating such sites and would remediate the problems.
Congressman Dan Kildee (Michigan 5th District) asked Kirsch if Chemours Company had adequate resources to deal with the cleanup.
“The answer would be a clear no,” Kirsch said. “The maximum liability for the spinoff (from DuPont) was set at $2.09 million, and the cleanup stopping emissions at the facility (North Carolina) will cost more than $200 million.”
“This is the concern that many of us have,” Kildee said. “We hear from one company witness (DuPont) who has off-loaded their liability, they think that the chemicals should be regulated, but the company that does have liability (Chemours) has not been given adequate resources to deal with that obligation. And listening to the witness representing 3M, you want to get credit for the decision to no longer produce these dangerous chemicals voluntarily.”
Kildee said the company witnesses wanted the subcommittee to believe there was no science that said the chemicals are dangerous.
“If you’re responsible for these chemicals in the environment, you can off-load the responsibility to somebody else and contaminate people,” he said. “You can take credit for the fact you’re taking it out of commerce. This is ridiculous. We have a huge problem in this country.”
Kildee said voluntary efforts would not work.
“Congress has to act,” he said.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York 14th District) asked Rutherford if she was aware of efforts by 3M to conceal the risks of PFAS for the past 60 years.
“I am not familiar with that,” Rutherford answered. “That goes against everything I know about my company. Over these past 30 years we have been committed to advancing the science and sharing information in the public domain.”
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