Jury Orders DuPont to Pay $55.5 Million to Cleanup West Virginia

October 17, 2007

DuPont Co. should pay about $55.5 million for property cleanup claims arising from a West Virginia industrial waste site, a Harrison County jury decided Monday.

The decision came in the third phase of a trial in a class-action lawsuit filed by 10 residents of Spelter, W. Va. The jury reached its decision after deliberating for about seven hours over two days.

The lawsuit accuses DuPont of deliberately dumping dangerous heavy metals on an industrial site in the heart of the Harrison County community.

“Because the trial is still in process, there’s little we can say at this point, except that we will continue to present evidence in this case,” DuPont spokesman Tim Ireland said. DuPont has already set aside $15 million to deal with the lawsuit.

Spelter residents won the first phase of their case Oct. 1, when jurors found DuPont liable for and negligent in creating the waste site. The 11-member jury also found that Delaware-based DuPont created a public and private nuisance and that its pollution trespassed onto private property.

In a second phase of the lawsuit, the jury required DuPont to provide medical monitoring for 40 years for about 7,000 people who were exposed to arsenic, cadmium and lead contamination from the former smelter site.

Monday’s verdict boiled down to the cost of cleaning up various types of property polluted by DuPont.

Jurors set the cost of cleaning up houses in the area at more than $27.6 million and the price for mobile homes at more than $27.4 million. The jury determined the price for cleaning up commercial property would be just over $1 million and the cost of managing the cleanup would be $18.4 million.

The medical testing regime is to include voluntary testing for lung, skin, stomach, bladder and kidney cancer, as well as for kidney function, cognitive problems and lead poisoning. Lead is not a carcinogen but can cause such problems as spontaneous abortions, low birth weight, memory and learning problems, fragile bones and cardiovascular disease.

A Harrison Circuit Court judge will determine how the plan will be set up.

The lawsuit dates back to 2004, when the property owners sued DuPont and New York-based T.L. Diamond & Co., which ran the plant from 1975 to 2001, when regulators recommended the site be declared an imminent and substantial threat to public health.

DuPont has been involved with the property since 1899 when it bought the land for a gunpowder mill. The company reassumed ownership when the zinc plant closed.

While Diamond is a defendant, the company isn’t actively participating in the trial. The judge in the case ruled previously that DuPont is responsible for Diamond’s conduct because of the 2001 sales agreement.

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