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Residents File Lawsuits Totaling $500 Million Against Du Pont Facility

May 8, 1991

GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) _ Eight lawsuits asking $500 million in damages were filed Tuesday against a Du Pont facility by neighbors who say the plant has polluted the air, land and ground water.

A Du Pont spokesman said there was no evidence of contamination beyond the boundaries of the facility, located in Kinston, a small city about 70 miles southeast of Raleigh.

The lawsuits, filed in county court in Kinston by attorneys Marvin Blount Jr. and James F. Hopf, claim the company’s discharge of hazardous chemicals from a parts washing facility have endangered the health of nearby families. The eight suits seek more than $66 million apiece.

″Du Pont has known for years that their operation was endangering surrounding properties and property owners and yet they ignored this lethal situation,″ said Blount.

But Larry Vacek, Du Pont’s human resources director at the Kinston plant, said company officials notified state officials of the contamination as soon as they were aware of a problem.

In addition, the company notified the neighbors, he said.

The suits claim that E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co.’s facility released hazardous and toxic chemicals through rinse water used to clean manufacturing parts. The company manufactures Dacron polyester fibers at its Kinston plant. The manufacturing parts are cleaned at an adjacent facility.

The previous owner of the cleaning facility discharged untreated rinse water into a drainage ditch from 1969 to 1981, according to information provided the state by Du Pont.

The defendants claim that chemicals have polluted land and ground water on nearby property, increasing the risk of future health hazards. The defendants contend the chemicals released from the plant - trichloroethane, triethylene glycol and dioxane - are suspected carcinogens or known toxins.

The suits also claim the company knew about the contamination of nearby property since the early 1980s but did not notify local residents until late 1990.

Du Pont announced in December that it would begin cleanup of contaminated ground water at the Kentec cleaning facility. Cleanup has begun at the site, Vacek said.

The state Division of Environmental Management has reviewed the company’s environmental testing but has not approved any cleanup plan.

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