Below listed are issues of concern --- Pros and Cons
LAWYERS TARGET DUPONT-DELISLE
THEY SAY IT MAKES PEOPLE ILL; FIRM SAYS NO
PATRICK PETERSON; THE SUN HERALD
Sunday, December 23, 2001
DeLISLE - - Lawyers have signed up more than 800 clients who claim that chemicals from DuPont's DeLisle plant have caused a variety of illnesses.
The lawyers plan to file a multibillion-dollar federal lawsuit --- yes, billions --- within weeks against DuPont, but they admit they have not linked chemical emissions from the plant to reported illnesses in the
"We believe. We don't have evidence yet," said Gulfport lawyer Kathleen Smiley, who decided to take the case after a client told her about many illnesses in the Kiln-DeLisle area.
Smiley and two other lawyers hope their experts can prove that leaked and spilled chemicals, moving through the air and drinking-water aquifers, have caused the array of illnesses. They plan to spend about $1 million gathering evidence and hiring experts in hopes that their investment will pay off through the lawsuit.
Additionally, at least 100 former DuPont employees have agreed to testify that the company routinely spilled and leaked chemicals onto the ground, Smiley said.
Each year, DuPont DeLisle produces about a half-billion dollars' worth of titanium dioxide, a white pigment used in paint, toothpaste, Oreo cookies and many other products.
DuPont officials say 85 percent of the plant's chemical waste is injected into sandstone 10,000 feet below the earth's surface, where no one is exposed to it. Despite occasional leaks in the pipe that injects the waste, DuPont officials say their safety measures prevent chemicals from leaking into aquifers and contaminating drinking water in DeLisle.
Although DeLisle residents feel illness has swept through their community, Dr. Mary Currier, the state epidemiologist, said cancer figures are normal in Harrison County.
"Looking at the cancer registry, if there is a cluster, we should be able to see it," Currier said, adding that cancer clusters caused by chemicals are generally easy to track.
"There has to be a route of exposure," she said.
As the lawsuit brews, DuPont officials simply wait to begin their defense.
"It's easy to sue," said DuPont attorney Larry Abbott of Covington, La., who has defended industries against environmental litigation since 1972.
Abbott said the plant's operations and emissions are governed by environmental regulations formulated by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, which has deemed them safe.
"They can try to create as much fear as they want to," Abbott said. "There are simply no human heath effects coming out of that plant."
Dealing with leaks
Since it opened in 1979, the DuPont plant has experienced several major leaks of poisonous titanium tetrachloride into the air. Plant manager Aldo Morell said one employee has lung damage from exposure to the chemical but remains on the job. When exposed to air, the chemical decomposes into a cloud of titanium dioxide and hydrochloric acid, which in heavy concentrations can damage the lungs, eyes and skin.
"There's not enough fingers and toes in this room to count the times we've had a major release," said 53-year-old Seaborn Wedgeworth, who worked 19 years in maintenance at the DeLisle plant and retired due to back problems that he doesn't blame on DuPont.
Wedgeworth said that spills of iron chloride and titanium tetrachloride were common.
Morell said that after a chemical release, a computer calculates where the chemicals will drift, based on the amount of the spill and the direction of the wind. Supervisors order an alarm sounded if residents will be in danger but do not sound an alarm if the wind will blow the chemicals away from homes, he said.
"They make those judgments," Morell said.
After an accidental spill, engineers estimate the amount of the spill by measuring the difference in tank levels, flow rates and the size of pipes that leaked. That estimate is reported.
According to the EPA's Toxic Release Inventory, DuPont's reported releasesof titanium tetrachloride peaked at 18,000 pounds in 1989. After DuPont instituted a "no leak" program, the amount of titanium tetrachloride
released dropped sharply, from 12,000 pounds in 1990 to 5,000 pounds in 1991, Morell said.
The amount released in 1999 was 2,742 pounds, according to the TRI. Most of the chemical escaped up the company's smokestack and chemically degraded to less dangerous pollutants, he said.
Morell said the last major spill of titanium tetrachloride occurred in 1996, when the company reported about 100 gallons leaked and created a large cloud that drifted over houses near the plant. Four employees were
hospitalized. Residents were given warning monitors for their homes after that spill.
"We have been working very hard to stop all leaks," Morell said. "Perhaps in the early days we weren't as diligent as we are now."
Some titanium tetrachloride still leaks during maintenance, when pipes are replaced, he said. Small amounts are highly visible. Workers wear special suits to protect them from the acid.
"If you spill a pint of it," Morell said, "it makes a huge cloud that will go off-site and get everyone's attention."
Self reporting Gulfport lawyer Smiley acknowledged that the plant has reduced its emissions, but added that testimony from former workers will show the plant has released more chemicals than it has reported.
According to the EPA's Toxic Release Inventory, DuPont created nearly 15 million pounds of toxic chemicals in 2000. An estimated 85 percent went down the injection wells, while 14.7 percent went up smokestacks and about 0.3 percent was placed in a landfill on the DuPont property.
The EPA has reviewed and approved DuPont's procedures for handling its waste, including the deep injection well, which has safeguards to prevent it from contaminating groundwater.
"This system automatically shuts down (if it leaks) and prevents any contamination of groundwater," Morell said.
EPA's figures indicate that only a fraction of dangerous elements produced at the plant, such as chromium and lead, or minerals such as manganese, are released directly into the air or water. The releases are at levels the EPA does not consider dangerous.
For example, the TRI shows that DuPont's toxic byproducts included 180,822 pounds of lead in 1999. A total of 99.5 percent was pumped down the injection well, while 77 pounds were released into the air or water and 740 pounds were stockpiled in a landfill on company property, where DuPont says the byproducts are not a danger to residents.
The EPA relies on DuPont to report its emissions and toxic releases, though the process is overseen and reviewed by the agency.
The lawyers who plan to sue DuPont distrust the EPA's figures.
"We know what they are reporting, and we know from the witnesses that the reporting is not correct," said New Orleans lawyer Mike Fenasci.
Fenasci said analysis of hair samples from children and adults in the Kiln-DeLisle area, which has 2,600 households, has shown elevated levels of several heavy metals listed as DuPont byproducts. Additionally, the lawyers said they have clients with a variety of illnesses, including different forms of cancer, lupus and thyroid conditions.
Smiley and Fenasci anticipate spending $1 million to gather evidence and to pay for expert testimony to battle the industrial giant. They will be joined by John Romano, a prominent personal injury lawyer from Florida.
Clients have not been asked to pay attorneys' fees.
"We're going to fund it in order to fight DuPont," Fenasci said. "We're going to put up 10 percent more (than DuPont) until we end this misery."
Former DuPont employee George Wise is ready to testify that chemicals were routinely spilled due to leaks and that chemicals were vented into the air during repairs.
"I'm exposed to all the chemicals out there. It was every day," said Wise, who retired from DuPont after nearly 18 years.
Wise drinks bottled water now and believes his water well north of Diamondhead has been contaminated with manganese. Wise has no illnesses that he can directly link to working at DuPont, but he believes that
deafness in his daughter was caused by manganese in the drinking water.
Currier, the state epidemiologist, said that neither death records nor a state registry of cancer cases begun in 1998 shows abnormal numbers of ill people in Harrison County.
"There was a little more lung cancer than we expected and a little bit less prostate cancer," said Currier, who added that the state's data are complete enough to reveal whether DuPont had caused clusters of cancer or some other illness.
"So far," Currier said, "it doesn't look out of the ordinary."
And as the high-stakes lawsuit looms, DuPont's attorney maintains that no link exists between the plant and the illnesses near DeLisle.
"There is simply no proof," Abbott said.
"People can sue you for anything," he said. "Most large companies in America are targets for lawsuits whether they're valid or not."
For 200 years, DuPont has been using science for products that make life better. For 23 of those years, DuPont has been a part of the Mississippi Gulf Coast community. Some of those years have been emotional as we have all come to grips with the growth of a major industrial plant in a rural setting. But you have welcomed us as we have worked through the challenges, and the DeLisle plant has grown and prospered. One reason for our success is commitment to a set of core corporate values. We believe in sustainable development and smart growth, which involves creating value while reducing our impact on the environment. As we operate, we recycle, reduce wastes, cut emissions, and trim energy consumption. All the while, under the watchful eye of the regulatory agencies, we work diligently to protect the environment and make sure that our activities are compatible with our natural heritage. We respect all people, listen, work in the community, and protect the health and safety of workers and neighbors. We always maintain high standards of ethical business practices. And as we go about our business, we create jobs, pay taxes, and support the community to add to the quality of life. By adhering to these values, the DeLisle plant has become a global competitor and leader in our industry. We owe our success to the employees, resident contractors, vendors, and all who have welcomed us and supported us for more than two decades. I want to thank the DeLisle and Mississippi Gulf Coast community for your support and for the trust you have placed in us to operate in a safe and environmentally protective manner. We work hard every day to honor this trust. As part of that effort, in the following pages, we want to share a little bit more about who we are. We’re proud to be a part of this community and take seriously our charge to be the plant that people count on. Together, we can do great things. Thank you Delisle and Mississippi Gulf Coast!
DuPont proposes wetlands fill to expand toxic waste landfill
DuPont DeLisle Plant proposes to fill 24 acres of wetlands near the Bay of St. Louis to build a new 32-acre landfill. This is despite the fact that there have been a large number of deaths and illnesses around the DuPont Plant that many believe are linked to toxic emissions from DuPont.
In the 2000 Toxic Release Inventory DuPont DeLisle Plant reported releasing about 42 percent of the dioxin-like compounds reported in the entire U.S. In 2001 DuPont still led the entire country in dioxin releases, and reported releasing a total of 14 million pounds of toxics including dangerous heavy metals (see www.epa.gov/tri/, zip 39571).
Currently there is an Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) investigation into the unusual incidence of deaths and illnesses around the DuPont DeLisle plant that many suspect are related to toxic pollution. ATSDR is specifically looking at the dioxin being landfilled at DuPont. Expansion of the landfills should not be allowed until these concerns about dioxin and heavy metal pollution, and their link to illnesses in the community, are thoroughly investigated.
There are already many, many acres of toxic waste landfilled at DuPont DeLisle. This permit application is for waste disposal unit #24, and it is the closest landfill to the water yet proposed. Instead of building a new landfill in wetlands to allow years more of toxic waste to be buried on site, DuPont DeLisle should either close or revise its manufacturing of titanium dioxide to prevent dioxin and heavy metal contamination.
The EPA says all landfills eventually leak. This is not an acceptable risk for Mississippi Coast residents. Allowing yet another large landfill would result in increased toxic contamination of ground water, the Bay of St. Louis, the Mississippi Sound, and Gulf of Mexico.
DuPont has admitted that a toxic plume of contamination exists under the plant, but claims this is no problem because it is moving towards the Bay of St. Louis. There are grave concerns about the present amount of pollution from the site, and its impact on contamination in the shrimp, oysters and fish that people eat from the Bay. When it rains on landfills, stormwater picks up pollution that then ends up in nearby bodies of water.
Contamination of seafood with dioxin and heavy metals is a major concern. Toxins can accumulate in seafood and make them unsafe to eat, especially for children and pregnant women. If you care about the health of the people and wildlife that live in the area of the Bay of St. Louis, please take action to oppose this proposal.
Posted on Sat, May. 01, 2004
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
DuPont DeLisle plant is part of community fabric
There has been a lot in the news recently about how American jobs are going overseas. While many companies, including DuPont, are investing in growing economies like Asia, Eastern Europe and South America, the truth is that there is still plenty of opportunity to have strong businesses here in the United States. The DuPont plant in DeLisle is a good example.
As the world's second-largest producer of titanium dioxide, we compete in a global market where commitments to selling and delivering high-quality products at a fair price and in a safe manner are important to customers. We've delivered on these commitments for 25 years and, today, rather than exporting jobs, we are exporting titanium dioxide to customers throughout the world. In fact, 50 percent of our business is with overseas customers. We plan to continue building our business, including exports, and providing jobs for 1,000 people and a payroll of $52 million. In addition, DuPont DeLisle, as one of the largest private employers in the region, is a major contributor to the local tax base.
The state environmental permits that DuPont is seeking, and which will be discussed at a public hearing on May 6, play a direct role in our ability to continue competing globally. Without them we won't have the opportunity to grow in the future.
The permits deal with air emissions, and will allow us to expand our capacity and continue exporting products. At the same time, these permits will result in a net decrease in overall emission limits by 60 percent. The permits will also allow us to take methane gas that currently goes to waste and use it to help fuel production of titanium dioxide. It makes sense for us to use a renewable resource instead of letting it flare to the atmosphere.
The permits will also correct errors that we made when filing the original permit application more than a decade ago. We settled these violations with the state Department of Environmental Quality earlier this month. These were technical violations. We never violated ambient air quality standards and the emissions were well below federal levels. Accordingly, these posed no significant health or environmental risk.
We understand that some groups oppose these permits. We respect their points of view and will continue to talk to them to find a common ground. The facts remain, however, that the DuPont DeLisle plant operates safely; it does not damage the environment; it does not pose a health risk; it anchors a strong local economy; and its employees are members of the community.
DuPont takes its environmental responsibility seriously and we at the DeLisle plant are committed to maintaining that responsibility as we build our business and value to the community.
For years DuPont DeLisle officials have said there are no problems with toxic emissions from their plant that could be the cause of widespread illnesses and death in the surrounding community. But recently DuPont "discovered" it incorrectly estimated the amount of air pollution it has been releasing since 1989 and is requesting a "retroactive" increase in their air-pollution limits.
DuPont has also applied for a new air permit called "DuPont DeLisle Plant Harrison County Mississippi Sustainable Growth Program" that requests an increase in air permit limits to increase production by 16 percent. They didn't even spell the name of our county, Harrison, correctly in the permit application. Added to the fact that this big polluter has confessed to incorrectly estimating the amount of pollution from their 1989 expansion, and you have to be very dubious about their claims of doing no harm to the community, and a request to pollute even more.
DuPont was fined $60,000 for violating their air permits for 15 years, a drop in the bucket when you consider this company is making $500 million worth of product annually at DeLisle. The corporation has made big profits off that plant, and now is the time to reinvest some of those profits into reducing pollution significantly from the plant that has the shameful record of being No. 1 in the country for dioxin releases reported to the Toxic Release Inventory.
If you breathe the Coast's air, drink Coast water and eat local seafood, you have a stake in this issue. I urge residents to attend a public hearing on the proposed retroactive air permit and the new permit to increase pollution that will be held May 6 at 7 p.m. at the West Harrison Community Center on Espy Avenue in Long Beach.
Rose Johnson of Gulfport is co-chair of the Mississippi Chapter Sierra Club.
Waste pit idea draws criticism for DuPont plant
Posted on Wed, Jun. 23, 2004
Public hearing set Thursday in Long Beach
By GREG HARMAN — THE SUN HERALD
PASS CHRISTIAN - A DuPont hearing will cover requested wetlands fill and waste pit permits.
About two years from now, DuPont officials would like to see a 46-foot-high hill built about 1,000 feet north of the Bay of Saint Louis.
Inside they would entomb dewatered bricks of waste material, the bulk of which will be made up of nonhazardous substances such as coke, a byproduct of production, as well as heavy metals and dioxins. Similar pits containing wet slurries of nonhazardous and hazardous waste are already in use at the plant.
But several concerns about the proposed 32-acre, aboveground waste pit - which currently hinges on filling 24 acres of wetlands - have been raised by state and federal officials.
While the landfill's design is strongly endorsed by one wing of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, the water quality branch has suggested there are too many outstanding questions about the plant's operation for the permit to be approved at this time.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also opposes the project. A letter from Curtis B. James, assistant field supervisor at USFWS, dated Jan. 14, suggests that better management of the company's already operating waste pits could make the proposed project unnecessary. And the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service has suggested the project could harm fish populations in the Bay of St. Louis and Mississippi Sound.
DuPont officials countered each of these assertions in a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers earlier in the year, saying, "While we agree there may be other alternatives, we do not believe that there are other alternatives that provide the operational, management, and environmental benefits provided by the proposed project."
Members of the public are also expect to present many issues of their own at a public hearing on the topic.
The hearing on the proposed waste pit, as well as a hazardous waste storage permit, surface mining permit and filling of 24 acres of wetlands is being held at 7 p.m. Thursday at the West Harrison Civic Center in Long Beach.
Speakers will be heard in the order they register to speak, with registration beginning at 6 p.m.
Opposition members plan to present data to the public at the Civic Center in the hour before the hearing.
Plant neighbors like John Ladner, who lives on Kiln-DeLisle Road a short distance from the plant, have regularly opposed permit applications made by the company.
"We have complained for years that we are living in (acidic) air, being so close to the DuPont plant. My wife and I live with a continual condition of allergies, sinus problems and sore throat,"
Ladner wrote to the DEQ on April 30. "We take allergy medication every day of our lives to try to relieve these problems."
A DEQ investigation in 1997 found that there was "validity" to the family's complaint about pollution from the plant and that "emissions from E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Company appear to be settling on your property and that of your neighbors."
Hundreds of residents are involved in a lawsuit that recently bounced back from federal court to the state level that charges pollution from the plant is responsible for a wide variety of cancers and sicknesses, though no state or federal agency has corroborated those claims.
DuPont officials say not only have they significantly reduced energy consumption and air and water pollution in the last decade but also they are on track to cut their generation of dioxins on site by 90 percent in the next three years.
The planned purchase of a $20 million "tail gas burner" will enable the company to stop the creation of most dioxins.
"It's not a matter of burning the dioxins," Linda Bernard, senior environmental consultant at DuPont told The Sun Herald earlier this week.
"We would just never make the precursors that form the dioxins."
Mark Williams, administrator of the DEQ solid waste department, said the proposed waste pit is far less likely to leak than more traditional designs.
"We like what they're doing because it reduces the amount of wastewater they have to manage," Williams said.
"It's a much better proposal than what has happened there historically."
A public hearing on the proposed waste pit, as well as a hazardous waste storage permit, surface mining permit and filling of 24 acres of wetlands is being held at 7 p.m. Thursday at the West Harrison Civic Center in Long Beach. Speakers will be heard in the order they
register to speak, with registration beginning at 6 p.m.
Permits will move DuPont closer to goal of zero wastedelisle to continue managing wastes in environmentally responsible way By PAT NICHOLS
Posted on Wed, Jun. 23, 2004
A SUN HERALD FORUM
The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will hold a public hearing Thursday to receive comment on several environmental permits for the DuPont DeLisle plant.
These permits relate to the management of our wastes and are necessary for the plant to continue as a viable member of the Mississippi Gulf Coast community. Our eventual goal is to generate zero waste; until then we must continue to dispose of wastes in an environmentally responsible way. Our values demand that we do so.
We will be at the hearing and will discuss why we need the permits; we will provide the public with information on how we plan to construct the proposed new unit pending approval by MDEQ. Whether you attend or not, we feel it is important for you to hear directly from us about these permits and how they will be used.
Under new regulations, the 180-acre area that has been used for nonhazardous waste management since the plant began operations 25 years ago now requires a permit. Since 1980, we have been putting solid wastes - mostly unreacted raw materials, primarily ilmenite ore and petroleum coke - in units similar to the one we propose to build. This permit also would allow us to build a new 32-acre, nonhazardous solid waste unit in this solid waste management area.
Not only will this permit govern the operation of the waste-management site, it specifies that the proposed unit will use the latest technology, approved by as well as constructed and operated under the guidance of MDEQ.
We are requesting that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issue a permit allowing us to use 24 acres of land classified as wetlands on which to construct this unit.
In return for using the 24 acres of wetlands, DuPont will enhance to high-quality wetlands four times as many acres, or 100 acres, on the east side of the plant adjacent to the state Department of Marine Resources Coastal Preserves tract. Once enhanced, these wetlands will be accessible to the public for recreation and education. Legal restrictions will be placed on this parcel so it cannot be used for any other purpose.
Building this unit on our property is the least disruptive option to the community and will make our "environmental footprint" as small as possible because it will be within the designated waste-management area on our plant property.
We are recovering a portion of these materials for re-use. Having the unit in this location will eliminate the need for the large volume of truck traffic that would be necessary to haul wastes to a site away from the plant. This area is a secure location because it is within our fence line.
The petroleum coke wastes placed in these units contain dioxin-like compounds that are not a threat to health or the environment because they are chemically bonded to the coke, do not leach into the soil, are not soluble in water and do not vaporize appreciably.
Because we recognize the public's concerns over dioxin and dioxin-like compounds, we are taking steps to reduce the generation of this unwanted byproduct. We pledged last year to EPA to reduce these compounds by 90 percent by 2007. In the next three years, we will spend approximately $20 million to install equipment and processes to help us reach this goal.
We are requesting a surface-mining permit to remove high-quality clay from DuPont-owned property on Kiln-DeLisle Road across from the plant. This clay will be used in construction of the new unit. We have consulted with governmental, school, conservation, our Community Advisory Panel, and other groups regarding safety and the post-project reclamation of the property. Related to this permit, we are asking for a modification of our existing stormwater pollution prevention plan to allow stormwater from the extraction area to continue to drain through a natural channel to the Bay of St. Louis.
Another permit will allow us to increase efficiency and reduce the potential for spills of hazardous wastes on the plant site by allowing the continuous operation of four tanks rather than emptying them every 90 days.
Although it does not expire until 2006, MDEQ asked us to file a request to renew our permit for a fifth tank used in our deep-injection well operation, where 80 percent of the wastes we generate are, in EPA's words, removed from the biosphere.
The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have carefully reviewed each of the permits, and the Corps of Engineers has carefully reviewed the permit request for the use of wetlands. These agencies have determined that all regulatory requirements have been addressed in the permit applications.
We are working hard to reduce wastes at the DeLisle plant. Our eventual goal is to generate zero waste, but until we meet that objective, we will continue to use environmentally sound ways to
manage waste. These permits will allow us to do that.
Our commitment is to continue as an environmentally, economically and socially responsible member of the Mississippi Gulf Coast community. We welcome your comments to help us keep that commitment.
Pat Nichols is plant manager at DuPont DeLisle. by Pat Nichols
Toxic releases should raise concerns over DuPont plans
Posted on Fri, Jun. 25, 2004
By DR. PETER DEFUR — A SUN HERALD FORUM
Recently DuPont DeLisle received permission to increase air pollution on the Gulf Coast for a 16 percent expansion even though the American Lung Association has given Harrison County an "F" for high ozone levels in the air.
DuPont also is seeking a number of other permits, including a request to fill in 24 acres of wetlands to build a new landfill near the Bay of St. Louis that would accept dangerous wastes such as heavy metals, PCBs and dioxins.
The facility applying for this permit has a long history of environmental problems. DuPont's Titanium Dioxide plant in DeLisle had at least one incidence of non-compliance with its wastewater permits in every quarter from April 2002 until the beginning of this year, and formal action was taken against the plant recently because of violations of its air permits over a 15-year period.
The site already has two sizable plumes of contaminants beneath the property. The contaminants include perchloroethene and other organics, as well as heavy metals such as arsenic, barium, beryllium, manganese, and lead. Although the PCE plumes are mostly contained under the plant, other compounds such as manganese have been found in drinking water wells beyond the boundaries of the plant.
Currently DuPont DeLisle is No. 1 in the entire country for releases of dioxin-like compounds, according to EPA's Toxic Release Inventory. While DuPont only "discovered" the dioxin in its waste materials a few years ago, it is now known that the dioxin has been produced there for the 25 years the plant has operated. In earlier years the waste was transported in uncovered trucks up Kiln-DeLisle Road to a landfill, and residents report so much waste was blown out of the backs of the trucks that the roads turned white.DuPont contends that the type of dioxins created at their plant are 10,000 times less toxic than the most dangerous variety (TCDD, the one found in Agent Orange), but that does not mean that they are not dangerous. This particular compound dioxin (OCDF) is one of the most persistent varieties of dioxins. With such low thresholds required to cause such a wide range of adverse effects, any releases of these compounds can have dangerous consequences.
Dioxins have tremendous longevity in the environment and in living tissues, including human bodies. Dioxins have a half-life (the time it takes for half of it to be lost) in humans of about 10 years and dioxin in soils or sediments can remain there for upwards of 100 years. Though not very soluble in water, its hydrophobic (repels water) properties give the compounds an affinity for fats, oils and organic sediments similar to PCBs. When dioxins move into sediments these compounds can enter the aquatic food chain. They enter the food chain because of their high solubility in fats, storing the toxic compound within any organism that consumes the dioxin-tainted sediment. Once in the food web, as one animal consumes another, the dioxin is concentrated in these "higher" predators. Therefore, when that organism is consumed by a top predator (human or otherwise), the dioxins are passed up the food chain.
Dioxins in animal tissues are not inert, but are released into the blood stream and circulate to other tissues where the effects can be exerted over time. A critical experiment conducted at the University of Wisconsin and published in 1991 and 1992 demonstrated the high toxicity of dioxins. A single dose of dioxin given to pregnant rats caused abnormalities in the male offspring.
The fact that dioxins do not dissolve well in water means that these compounds will dissolve in body fats and will be retained by animals, causing health problems over very long periods and throughout the body. Small amounts in the environment will be concentrated at high levels in animals --- including humans.
In spite of these risks, DuPont plans to excavate some already-processed waste to remove another 10 percent more titanium dioxide. This re-mining of waste could release more dioxins, PCBs and heavy metals into the surrounding environment. Dioxin exposure leads to diseases such as diabetes, various cancers including prostate cancer, endometriosis, birth defects, and heart disease.
Serious damage comes from a very small exposure level, equivalent to spitting into an Olympic-size swimming pool.
The EPA estimates that the average U.S. resident is now already over-exposed to dioxin-like compounds. Furthermore, EPA concludes that the most highly exposed individuals are those who live in the vicinity of a source facility; DuPont DeLisle is such a source facility.
Dr. Peter deFur, president of Environmental Stewardship Concepts, is a technical advisor to Sierra Club on the DuPont DeLisle permit applications. He is an affiliate associate professor in the Center for Environmental Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University where he conducts research on environmental health and ecological risk assessment. He is president of the Association for Science in the Public Interest. by Peter deFur