Brooks sees concern over chemical contamination

PARKERSBURG — A provision in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act may show a growing concern of the contamination from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, called PFAS, a local authority said.

“I believe there’s a coalition that’s going to demand these chemicals be evaluated and removed, if found harmful,” said Dr. Paul Brooks, whose company, Brookmar, conducted the study into the health effects of C8, or PFOA, upon 70,000 residents in the Mid-Ohio Valley.

“It’s just a matter of time,” he said.

PFAS include GenX, the successor to C8 that was once used to make Teflon at the Washington Works plant once operated by DuPont.

Earlier this month, attorney Robert Bilott, a lawyer in the federal C8 cases against DuPont, asked the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for a study into the impact of PFAS. The model that could be used is the procedure used by the C8 science panel, he said.

A suit compelling the agency to perform the evaluation could be filed on behalf of Brooks or Jeffrey Hermes of Burlington, Ky., a firefighter.

PFAS also are used in firefighting foams. The Defense Authorization Act includes $62 million for the water remediation and environmental restoration in communities that have suffered groundwater contamination because of how close they are to a military base where such foams are used.

The provision was sponsored by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and co-sponsored by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.

Getting more elected officials to support an evaluation is probably the best encouragement for an agency to do so, Brooks said. It’s political clout, according to Brooks.

“That’s probably where the key is to the lock box, getting more politicians behind it,” Brooks said. “They have the big hammer.”

In Martinsburg, the Big Springs Water Filtration Plant was shut down in 2016 because of contamination from the operations of the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard based at the Eastern Regional Airport. A representative of the guard and Air Force in January told Martinsburg City Council the wing was a contributor to the PFOA contamination.

In August, the city poured the footers to install a filtration system, similar to those used in Vienna and Belpre, to remove contamination. However, in June city council was informed the Air Force and National Guard’s plan to reimburse the city $10 million for remediation at the plant was put on hold. The city was committed to installing the system regardless of the federal participation.

The Defense Authorization Act was approved in the Senate Monday night by a 89-3 vote. Capito and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman of Ohio voted in favor.

The House of Representatives passed its version of the 2018 defense authorization bill in July. The Senate version will go to a House-Senate conference committee.

“People near these bases reacted with understandable alarm when these chemicals were discovered in their groundwater. Since then, I have been focused on finding solutions to the PFAS problem,” Cantwell said. “This important funding is one such solution and will move us toward clean groundwater in communities close to the affected military facilities.”

The facility at Martinsburg was among the more than 400 installations that were identified by the Department of Defense where there is a known or suspected release of contaminants requiring additional investigation.

The C8 study found a possible link to six diseases in people.

“If it was not for the local community health study conducted by Paul Brooks and Art Maher in 2005, nobody would have become aware of the dangers that these chemicals pose to human health worldwide,” said Harry Deitzler, a leading attorney in the original C8 lawsuits filed in Wood County, of which the settlement created the science panel and health study.


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