March 30, 2016 | By Jess Mancini

PARKERSBURG – A senator from New Hampshire has asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to hurry its release of a new C8 health advisory standard.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican from the Granite State, Monday wrote a letter to Administrator Gina McCarthy requesting the release of a new standard for C8, also called PFOA, be expedited in light of water contamination found in several cities and towns in New Hampshire.

“Due to the increasing number of impacted communities, the unknown potential health effects related to using water contaminated by PFOA, and the conflicting standards as to what level of PFOA should prompt water treatment or use of an alternative water source, I urge EPA to expedite the determination and release of the new health advisory standard for PFOA as soon as possible,” Ayotte said.

The C8 issue came to the forefront in the Mid-Ohio Valley 10 years ago. Local water systems in proximity of the Washington Works in Wood County have been tainted with C8 that DuPont used to make Teflon at the plant, which is now Chemours, a company created in a spinoff from DuPont.

Exposure to C8 has been linked to six diseases in humans – pregnancy-induced hypertension including preeclampsia, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease and high cholesterol according to the health study from data gleaned from 70,000 residents of the Mid-Ohio Valley as required by a settlement of a class action lawsuit against DuPont.

Earlier this month New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin and Gov. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire asked the EPA to review the science and “assess and ensure the safety of drinking water exposed to the contaminant.”

“Sen. Ayotte’s statement urging the EPA to determine a new guideline on C8 shows that the tide is turning across the country,” said Jeff Dugas, a spokesman for Keep Your Promises DuPont, an organization making sure DuPont and Chemours are kept responsible for any liabilities over C8 contamination.

“Elected officials are finally waking up to the C8 crisis, and it is only a matter of time before DuPont and other corporate polluters are held accountable for the damage they have done to dozens of communities,” Dugas said.

Shawn M. Garvin, an EPA regional administrator in Philadelphia, in a letter to Robert Bilott, an attorney representing the plaintiffs in the C8 lawsuit against DuPont, said the agency is expected to finalize an updated lifetime health advisory this spring. Bilott has asked the EPA to intervene because concentrations of C8 greater than 0.1 parts per billion have been found in five of Vienna’s eight water wells and tests in Parkersburg showed concentrations of 0.072 ppb to 0.013 ppb in three wells, non-quantifiable at two other wells and 0.031 ppb in the finished, treated water.

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia “is reviewing the situation,” said Jonathan Kott, a communications director for the senator. Manchin last week told The News and Sentinel he would contact McCarthy at the EPA.

“We have reached out to the EPA for a status update,” Ashley Berang, a spokesman for Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, said.

The settlement in the class action lawsuit also required DuPont to install carbon filters to remove C8 from six local water systems, including Belpre and Lubeck. Parkersburg and Vienna were not included because the concentration was below the 0.4 ppb short-term advisory set by the EPA.

Since then New York, Maine Vermont and New Hampshire have set lower limits, 0.02 ppb in Vermont and New Hampshire and 0.1 ppb in New York and Maine, than the EPA advisory level. Residents of affected towns have been advised not to drink the water and at Hoosick Falls, N.Y., the plant which is the source of the contamination voluntarily agreed to install a filter system in the public water system.

“These varying levels have created great uncertainty among the public regarding what PFOA level is safe for use and consumption,” Ayotte said.

Also in New York, the Department of Environmental Conservation on the request of the state health department classified C8 as a hazardous substance. C8 is an unregulated chemical under the U.S. EPA.

“Due to its environmental presence, persistence and toxicity, the improper treatment, storage, transport and disposal of PFOA pose a threat to public health in New York State,” the Department of Environmental Conservation said.

Representatives from the state health department and Division of Environmental Protection in West Virginia last week told The News and Sentinel they rely on the federal standards.

“I appreciate that the senator from New Hampshire is pressing the EPA to take action,” said Harry Deitzler, an attorney representing the plaintiffs in the C8 lawsuit against DuPont. “Why is it that the EPA has time to stop West Virginia coal mining that keeps our lights on but cannot find time to make our water safe to drink?”

Residents need to put the pressure on the EPA and elected officials, said Dr. Paul Brooks of Vienna, whose company, Brookmar, organized the health study under the class action lawsuit. The scientific documentation shows the unsafe levels much farther below the existing advisory, if it’s not zero, he said.

DuPont is not going to do anything and the EPA and state officials have been slow to react, Brooks said.

“All I hear is words,” said Brooks, who with a group from Keep Your Promises will be in Dordrecht in The Netherlands to discuss C8 contamination from a plant now operated by Chemours.

“If they were going to do something, they would have done it by now,” Brooks said.