Woodland Progress - work is progressing on both sides of the Nanticoke River for the landings for the new Woodland Ferry. Tina Shockley, Community Relations Officer with the Delaware Dept. of Transportation, said the expected completion time is November 2

By Lynn R. Parks

The nylon plant in Seaford is one of 14 former DuPont plants cited in a lawsuit filed last week by Invista against the DuPont Company. In the lawsuit, Invista, a DuPont subsidiary that was acquired by Koch Industries for $4 billion in April 2004, alleges that DuPont knew of hundreds of safety and environmental violations in its plants, including some in the Seaford plant, and failed to disclose them to Invista. These violations placed Invista workers, the public and the environment at risk, the suit says. The lawsuit, filed March 26 in the U.S. District Court in New York City, asks for an award of $800 million to pay for the corrective action Invista says it has had to take and will have to take. "Invista's losses are staggering," the lawsuit says. The lawsuit also asks for punitive damages. "DuPont's breach of itsÉobligations is egregious and warrants an award of punitive damages, because DuPont knew of several of the more dangerous safety and environmental violations, knew those violations placed its workers and the public at risk, took no action to rectify them and failed to disclose them to Invista," the suit says. In a statement issued March 26, DuPont general counsel Stacey J. Mobley called the allegations in the lawsuit "exaggerated and misguided." "DuPont intends to vigorously defend itselfÉand is confident that it will be vindicated when all of the evidence is examined in a court of law," he said. "Invista's current allegations appear to be opportunistic efforts, including funding for Invista's production capacity expansions and other capital improvement projects." Mobley pointed to DuPont's reputation as an environmentally-conscious company. "DuPont is recognized as a global leader in workplace safety and voluntary environmental footprint reduction, going beyond regulatory requirements and pursuing a 'goal of zero' safety and environmental incidents," he said. The lawsuit mentions that reputation as one reason that Invista did not insist on thorough examinations of all of the 14 plants it acquired in the 2004 purchase. "In light of DuPont's self-declared and purportedly excellent environmental and safety record, as proclaimed in numerous DuPont public relations campaignsÉInvista agreed to DuPont's insistence on limited due diligence at several facilities," the lawsuit says. "DuPont repeatedly provided Invista assurances that its safety and environmental commitment was second to none," said Invista spokeswoman Mary Beth Jarvis. "We relied on those assurances, backed up by DuPont's promise in the purchasing and sales agreement to take responsibility for any pre-existing noncompliance discovered after closing." According to the lawsuit, under the 2004 purchase agreement DuPont is responsible for any costs associated with bringing the plants into compliance with laws. DuPont has consistently refused to fulfill these obligations, Invista said. The lawsuit says that within weeks of buying the plants from DuPont, Invista discovered "significant violations" at two facilities in Texas. The violations "were well known to DuPont prior to closing and were not disclosed," the lawsuit says. According to the lawsuit, "the primary benzene treatment unit at a chemical manufacturing facility in Victoria, Texas, had been operating illegally since 2000." In addition, "since 1992, DuPont had been venting uncontrolled benzene-containing vapors directly into the atmosphere at a chemical manufacturing facility in Orange, Texas."

Benzene, an industrial solvent, is used in the manufacture of drugs, plastics, synthetic rubber and dyes. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has classified it as a carcinogen. Long-term exposure through breathing can cause leukemia. Invista says that following the discoveries at the Texas plants, it "notified the Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Texas concerning DuPont's longstanding and reckless handling of benzene." Through an agreement with the EPA, Invista then conducted environmental audits at all the U.S. plants it had acquired from DuPont. "Over the course of the next 18 months, independent environmental engineers conducted 45 separate audits at the U.S. facilities, where they discovered 687 instances of noncompliance with federal, state and local environmental laws," the lawsuit says. Invista has already spent $140 million in cleaning up DuPont's noncompliance, the lawsuit says. Additional remediation will cost between $300 million and $450 million and will result in additional operating costs of $200 million, the lawsuit adds. In addition, Invista, the EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice have come to an agreement under which Invista will pay a civil penalty of $1.7 million and will "resolve DuPont's permitting failures, eliminate noncompliance and prevent recurrence." In the Seaford nylon plant, the lawsuit alleges, DuPont did not obtain required construction permits for a $1.2 million project in 2002 to replace about 80 percent of the tubes in the firebox of one of the plant's three coal-fired boilers. DuPont also did not install required technology to limit emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide from that boiler, the lawsuit says. The boilers generate steam that is used in heating the plant as well as in the plant processing. Sulfur dioxide, the smell of which resembles rotten eggs, is one of the major causes of acid rain. Inhaling the compound causes labored breathing, coughing and a sore throat and may cause permanent pulmonary damage. Nitrogen oxide is also a cause of acid rain. In addition, it is a component in smog and ozone, both of which can harm lung function and irritate the pulmonary system. According to the lawsuit, DuPont failed to comply with federal requirements when it did "major modifications" at the Seaford plant. The lawsuit also says that the plant's operating permit did not include required information regarding those modifications, erroneously said that the plant was in compliance with all applicable regulatory requirements and contained an incomplete compliance plan. Under the terms of the agreement with the EPA and the Department of Justice, Invista will install devices to control sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide from two boilers in the Seaford plant, or will replace the coal-fired boilers with boilers that burn natural gas, a less-polluting fuel than coal. The company also has to implement operational and fuel limitations on another boiler and burn cleaner fuels in the Dowtherm vaporizer, which heats Dowtherm, an oil-like substance made by the Dow Chemical Company that circulates through the plant to keep warm the substances that go into the nylon. The oil is heated to the point that it changes from a liquid to a vapor to make circulation easier. The vaporizer burns fuel oil. In addition to the air pollution violations, the lawsuit alleges that the Seaford plant was also in violation of the federal Clean Water Act. DuPont had an inadequate spill-prevention control and countermeasure plan in the event of a spill of Dowtherm, the lawsuit says. Invista has updated the emergency plan and has installed a secondary containment system in case of a leak. "We saw that as a risk to the environment and to our employees and have corrected it," Invista spokeswoman Jarvis said.

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