“Thirty-four years ago, an employee from a DuPont plant near Parkersburg, West Virginia, filled a jug with tap water from a little general store just across the Ohio River called Mason’s Village Market.

An internal DuPont document shows that the company was secretly testing the water for ammonium perfluorooctanoate — better known as C8. DuPont employees also took samples from stores in eight other unsuspecting communities in the Ohio River Valley.

The document shows C8 was detected at three stores closest to the plant, including Mason’s Village Market in Little Hocking, Ohio. It also shows that, at one of those stores, the level of C8 measured more than 20 times higher than what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today considers safe for drinking water.

DuPont conducted more tests around the sprawling Washington Works plant but never told anyone about its findings. It just continued as it had since 1951, using C8 to keep Teflon and other slippery coatings from clumping during the manufacturing process and pouring the waste into the Ohio River or allowing it to escape from smokestacks…

Residents of Little Hocking, Lubeck and Washington kept right on with their daily lives, too, drinking tap water laced with a chemical that DuPont knew back then caused diseases in laboratory animals. Today, C8 is considered a probable cause of kidney and testicular cancer in humans, as well as other diseases.

It wasn’t until about 2002 — 18 years later — that Little Hocking residents and thousands of other people living near the DuPont plant would learn that C8 had contaminated their drinking water…

In so many ways, the environmental crisis in the Ohio River Valley is now playing out in southeastern North Carolina, where DuPont made C8 at its Fayetteville Works plant from 2002 to around 2009, when it began to switch for environmental and health reasons to a closely related compound called GenX.

Last June, news broke in the Wilmington Star-News that GenX had contaminated the Cape Fear River and the drinking water for an estimated 250,000 people from Cumberland County to the coast. Researchers found not only GenX, but an entire stew of unregulated perfluorinated and polyfluorinated compounds, some with much higher concentrations than GenX.

Tests performed on 748 private wells surrounding the Fayetteville Works plant found more than 190 with levels of GenX exceeding what the state now considers safe to drink.”

Read the full article, part one of a four part series, by Greg Barnes.

Part 2: DuPont’s C8 leak in Fayetteville spurs fears of health crisis

Part 3: Public learns of Cape Fear River toxins, 11 years later

Part 4: For those exposed to GenX, an agonizing wait for answers