Chemours tried to settle massive PFAS damage claim ahead of court ruling
Chemical group Chemours tried to quietly settle a massive damage claim filed against it by the four nearby municipalities. Before the summer, Chemours offered “several millions” to settle current and future damage caused by PFAS pollution, Zembla reports based on minutes of a closed council meeting of the municipality of Dordrecht. The municipalities discussed the settlement with the chemical plant but ultimately rejected it.
In 2018, the municipalities of Dordrecht, Sliedrecht, Papendrecht, and Molelanden held Chemours, formerly DuPont, liable for environmental and health damage caused by PFAS pollution by the company. The trial happened in the spring, and the court will rule on September 27. It now appears that Chemours tried to buy off the damage in the run-up to the ruling.
During the closed council meeting in Dordrecht on May 30, the office of the mayor and aldermen and the State Attorney informed the council that Chemours had presented a settlement proposal. According to the meeting minutes, Chemorus made an opening offer of “several millions,” not to block the court ruling but to draw a final line under all current and future damage claims.
If the municipalities accepted the settlement offer, they couldn’t submit any further claims caused by the PFAS compounds PFOA and GenX, even if the court convicts Chemours. The only exception was possible damage caused by substances not known about yet. The settlement was also conditional on all four municipalities agreeing.
The State Attorney noted that Chemours was trying to improve its image with the settlement. “During the consultation, Chemours indicated that it would very much like to get rid of the whole case and also want to involve other municipalities and, for example, water boards,” the State Attorney said, according to the meeting minutes. “Chemours would very much like to come to a settlement to draw a final line under this file. And it also correlates, is our strong impression, with the reputation of Chemorus, they would very much like the community to think more positively about the company than is currently the case.”
The State Attorney advised the municipality to discuss the settlement with Chemours but added that the opening amount offered was much too low.
After that meeting, Zembla revealed that Chemours/DuPont had known for decades that it was leaking large amounts of carcinogenic PFAS into the groundwater under the Dordrecht factory. The company only focused on covering that up, worried about the consequences for its finances and reputation. A month later, Zembla reported that the ditches and lakes within 15 kilometers around Chemours were seriously contaminated with PFAS.
On Thursday, NRC also reported that the eggs of hobby chicken keepers around Chemous regularly contain too much PFAS to be safe for consumption. NRC had eggs from nine hobby farmers in a radius of six kilometers around the factory tested for PFAS. Eggs from five of the nine locations contained too high concentrations of the carcinogenic substances.
The eggs from one farm close to the factory were so contaminated that an adult man eating half an egg per week would ingest more PFAS than safe according to European guidelines. One egg a week would give 4-year-olds 20 times more PFAS than is safe.
The four municipalities involved rejected Chemours' settlement proposal last month, calling the offer “inappropriate.” All four municipalities rejected the offer and have informed Chemours as such, the Dordrecht office of mayor and aldermen said to the city council in a letter dated July 6.
On Friday, the Provincial Council of Zuid-Holland will hold a hearing on Chemours and its PFAS pollution. The Provincial Council members will question the management of the chemical factory, employees, local residents, and local politicians on the matter.