Fat Water

The West Virginia Manufacturers Association is successfully lobbying the state legislature with false claims that because the state’s population weighs in as the heaviest in the nation, the people can handle a greater chemical burden of pollution in their drinking water.

This same group also claims that since West Virginians drink less water than the rest of the nation they are less likely to suffer from exposure related illnesses.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

So, while scientists the world over shake their heads in disbelief, the rest of us are left to reconcile the reality with those ridiculous statements.

While I would be the first to argue that Appalachians are a hearty lot, the notion that fat people do not require (or deserve) protections against polluted drinking water is absurd for several reasons.

National rankings show West Virginia as the state with the highest rate of obesity. More than 38 percent of the state’s adults are considered more than a little overweight and there is a very real link between pollution and obesity, though not as defined by the conniving corporate lobby.

That polluted water might be making you fat.

The fact is that West Virginians are constantly exposed to industrial pollutants that alter body chemistry in such a way as to make people heavier – while also making it more difficult for them to lose weight. Think about what a cycle of despair that is for people who suffer from the social crime of being bigger.

Science shows us that heavier people are likely to carry a heavier body burden of C8 – and other contaminants. Fat cells store pollutants. And, specifically, C8 or PFOA, the Teflon toxin, binds to fat. It is also an endocrine disruptor – meaning that it influences the body’s chemical functions.

Consider, too, that at the heart of every solid weight-loss plan is an essential intake of water – in this case the very thing that may be contributing to our heaviness.

Hence, we have a big, fat,vicious circle for those living the plague of pollution in the Mid-Ohio Valley.

It is a very difficult thing to lose weight under the best of circumstances. The challenge grows with every passing year and with every added pound. That does not mean it’s not a worthwhile endeavor for those who choose to healthfully take it on. But, those who are fighting this battle in the Mid-Ohio Valley have quite a lot stacked against them. All would do well to acknowledge how very hard it is to shed pounds – and to celebrate those who have met the challenge with success. However, that does not mean that those who are perpetually challenged are somehow less than – or less deserving of environmental protections.

Further, let’s not pretend that this notion wasn’t presented with open disdain for the fat community.

We as a society have come so far in tolerating individuals of different skin tones and sexual orientations, yet it is still largely acceptable to make fun of – or to ostracize or to shame – fat people. This is discrimination, plain and simple, and it should not be called anything else.

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Rings Trial Set for December 11

The State of Ohio’s case against Washington County Prosecutor Kevin Rings is set for trial on December 11 with jury selection beginning at 9 am.

55 year old Rings was indicted in June on misdemeanor charges stemming from a sexual relationship with a young woman that was both the suspect in one case he was prosecuting and the victim in another. Suspect and victim Amy Davis claimed she was sexually molested by Rings.

Text messages and courthouse surveillance footage tell the story of a philandering official, repeatedly using his authority to pressure attractive young women into sex. Davis’ accusation opened Pandora’s box revealing that there have been dozens of such victims over many years of Rings’ tenure in the prosecutor’s office.

More than two dozen individuals testified against Rings in the grand jury proceedings that led to indictments on two counts – second-degree misdemeanor coercion and third-degree misdemeanor sexual imposition.

Sources revealed to RCNN that there was sufficient evidence for felony charges to be brought against Rings, but only misdemeanor charges were pursued. The case has been under investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation since October 2017.

Despite the indictments, Rings remains in office and continues to prosecute cases on behalf of the state. Once the matter has been adjudicated, Rings will have to answer to the Ohio Ethics Commission and the Ohio Disciplinary Counsel.

The trial is scheduled to take place at the Washington County Courthouse. Former Summit County Judge Patricia Cosgrove will hear the case.

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NC PFAS Study: Higher Prevalence of Brain Birth Defects

An analysis of birth defects and PFAS exposure in North Carolina turned up an unexplained prevalence of brain birth defects in the five counties studied – and beyond.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services recently released an analysis of four categories of birth defects in counties known to be impacted by exposure to Gen-X and other perfluorinated chemicals and found that while the prevalence of most types of birth defects examined in the study did not differ from statewide estimates, a higher prevalence of total brain defects was found in some areas. However, the higher prevalence of total brain defects was not limited to counties where Gen-X and other PFAS have been found in drinking water.

Further, the findings concluded:

“The prevalence of neural tube defects and one specific type of cardiac defect were higher in one county each as compared to the state as a whole. However, county-level estimates were based on small numbers of cases and the prevalence varied widely from year to year.”

The PFAS family of manmade chemicals includes PFOA – the Teflon toxin used at DuPont Washington Works, Gen-X – it’s replacement, PFOS – the Scotchgard chemical, and many other compounds known for their unnatural properties. They are present in food packaging, textiles, draperies, food coverings and countless other consumer products.

Readers familiar with the story of C8 in the Mid-Ohio Valley can appreciate this timeline.  Long before the Tennants’ lost their cattle to a mysterious wasting disease, (which would lead to the discovery of C8 in water supplies surrounding DuPont Washington Works) DuPont was reacting to the startling incidence of birth defects in babies born to mothers who worked in the Teflon Division. Specifically, two babies were born with facial birth defects out of a seven babies born to women who worked there. In 1981 the company responded by removing all of the women from the Teflon Division permanently.   

However, it is worth noting that the C8 Science Panel, which linked six human health conditions to C8 exposure in the Mid-Ohio Valley, did not find a probable link to birth defects. The health conditions found to be related to C8 exposure in people who were drinking water contaminated with the industrial solvent included: kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, pre-eclampsia and medically-diagnosed high cholesterol.

The North Carolina DHHS analysis of the birth defect data was performed “to address concerns raised during the state’s ongoing investigation into Gen-X and other per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also referred to as PFAS.” The report noted that there is no national data available for comparison.

“Brain and spinal cord defects, facial clefts, heart defects and skeletal defects were chosen for this analysis because they have been included in previous studies of PFAS exposure or because associations with PFAS have been suggested in studies of laboratory animals,” according to the report. “No birth defects have been definitively linked to PFAS exposure in humans. Because birth defects can be caused by a complex mix of genetic, medical, behavioral and environmental factors, no conclusions regarding links between PFAS or other exposures and birth defects can be drawn from this analysis.”

The state said it will continue to monitor geographic variations in the occurrence of birth defects and is developing plans to specifically examine the occurrence of brain anomalies across the state.

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Ohio Senate Considers Anti-Protest Bill

A proposed Ohio law would make pipeline protesting a felony attached to hefty penalties. Senate Bill 250 is intended to “protect critical infrastructure facilities from mischief,” as titled. But civil rights activists and environmental advocates say it is an unconstitutional move to suppress their right to protest.

The bill seeks to “prohibit criminal mischief, criminal trespass and aggravated trespass on a critical infrastructure facility, to impose fines for organizations that are complicit in those offenses, and to impose civil liability for damage caused by trespass on a critical infrastructure facility.”

Following a hearing last Wednesday, the bill awaits committee approval before coming up for a vote by the Senate.

According to the proposed bill, criminal mischief at an oil or gas facility would go from a first degree misdemeanor to a third degree felony. The maximum prison term for a conviction would be three years.

The language of the bill explains that citizens would be prohibited from “impeding and inhibiting” operations of infrastructure facilities including: electricity generation and transmission; oil and gas production, transportation and distribution; telecommunication; water supply; agricultural resources, production and distribution; heating; transportation systems; and security services.

“Ohio Senate Bill 250 is a dangerous assault on civil liberties and free speech. It is unnecessary, since trespass is already covered by Ohio law,” said Heather Cantino for the Buckeye Environmental Network and Athens County Fracking Action Network. “This bill creates a new level of penalties for trespass, with draconian fines and felony charges if the trespass is against so-called critical infrastructure, including corporate-owned pipelines and oil and gas wells (even if they are on someone’s own property) and Homeland Security sites, meaning that citizens supporting immigrants are also vulnerable to its penalties. The legislation is clearly meant to intimidate individuals and, even more dangerously, non-profit organizations that organize people to speak out against assaults by the oil and gas industry against our communities, climate and public health. Under the bill, organizations can be held liable for others’ actions through guilt by association, with 10 times greater penalties than penalties individuals would receive. This can only be intended to squelch environmental advocacy, so essential at this time of accelerating climate chaos.”

Ohio Senate Bill 250 was proposed by Senator Frank Hoagland (R-Mingo Junction) in the wake of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests last year.

Even as the bill makes its way through the process, Energy News Network is reporting that it is unlikely that the bill would become law this year unless lawmakers have a will to “push it through”.

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C8 Attorney Files PFAS Suit

The attorney who took on DuPont in the class action lawsuit over contaminated water supplies in the Mid-Ohio Valley is challenging the industry once again to examine the real-world science about chemical exposure. This time attorney Rob Bilott filed suit on behalf of everyone in the United States who has PFAS in their blood, which according to sampling results would be nearly everyone.

While the Leach lawsuit filed by Bilott in Wood County, West Virginia in the early 2000’s focused specifically on C8 or PFOA or perfluorooctanoic acid, the suit filed this fall pertains to the larger family of chemicals known as PFAS and targets three companies for their manufacture and application: DuPont, 3M, and Chemours.

An article by Sharon Lerner in the Intercept on October 6, 2018, reveals that the newly filed suit against the three companies seeks to use the ground-breaking framework developed in the Leach suit to arrive at a science-based conclusion. . The Leach suit resulted in the C8 Health Project, the C8 Science Panel, filtration systems for six local water systems, medical monitoring and finally a settlement of more than $670 million for thousands of Mid-Ohio Valley residents who filed personal injury claims against DuPont because they drank the contaminated water and developed one or more of six linked health conditions.

It happened like this. As a condition of the settlement agreement penned in 2004, the C8 Health Project recruited, sampled and collected medical data on nearly 70,000 exposed participants. Over the next few years the C8 Science Panel, a group of three epidemiologists, studied and reviewed that data along with other study results from all over the world. They came to the conclusion that there was a probable link between exposure to C8 and six health conditions: kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, pre-eclampsia, and medically diagnosed high cholesterol. This conclusion led to the construction and ongoing maintenance of filtration systems for the six impacted water systems (identified at the time). The class members have the right to medical monitoring to help track the development of the identified diseases. It also gave individuals in the impacted communities who drank the water and suffered from one of the related conditions the right to file personal injury claims against DuPont. In 2017, DuPont and its spin-off company Chemours agreed to settle more than 3,500 such personal injury claims for $670 million with an ongoing allowance to handle the future claims of the exposed population.

Bilott wants to replicate that massive health study model on a national level with regards to the entire family of PFAS chemicals.

C8 or PFOA was used at DuPont Washington Works in the manufacture of Teflon and hundred of other consumer applications. The larger PFAS family of manmade chemicals includes PFOA – the Teflon toxin, Gen-X – it’s replacement, PFOS – the Scotchgard chemical, and many other compounds known for their unnatural properties.They are present in food packaging, textiles, draperies, food coverings and countless other consumer products.

They are persistent in humans, animals, and in the environment. They do not break down over time. And, exposure is linked to cancer and other diseases.

Recently, concerns over this family of chemicals has prompted the Ohio State Fire Marshal to direct fire departments across the state to refrain from using firefighting foams containing PFAS. It is worth noting that Bilott filed the nationwide PFAS class action lawsuit on behalf of his client Kevin Hardwick – an Ohio firefighter.

In the fall of 2017, citing “unusually high rates of cancer” in firefighters, Bilott petitioned the US EPA and the CDC to study the turnout gear of firefighters as a potential route of exposure. At the time, the turnout gear industry accused Bilott of “creating fear and mistrust” in their products. The industry does admit that for an unspecified amount of time PFAS were used as a coating on turnout gear, but makes the claim that such small amounts could not result in any significant, harm-inducing exposure.

To date no study has been done on the potential link between cancer and firefighters’ exposure through their PFAS-treated gear.

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Ohio Fire Marshal Advises Departments to Handle Foams with Caution

There are new concerns about the family of carcinogenic chemicals familiar in the Mid-Ohio Valley because of their role in the manufacture of Teflon at DuPont Washington Works. In the early 2000’s, the manmade industrial solvent known as C8 or PFOA or perfluorooctanoic acid was detected in local water supplies as a result of the processes at Washington Works and subsequently became the subject of a class action lawsuit.

The conversation about the family of chemicals made famous by the Teflon toxin is heating up again – this time because of their role in firefighting. C8 or PFOA is a part of a larger family of chemicals with similar properties referred to by scientists as PFAS. PFAS is common to firefighting foams. Concerns over the foams prompted the Ohio State Fire Marshal to issue a directive regarding their tracking and use.

“Our office has recently learned of an emerging environmental issue that may be placing your firefighters and communities at risk,” said Ohio State Fire Marshal Jeff Hussey in the directive from the Ohio Department of Commerce. “Class-B firefighting foam Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) contains PFAS, a chemical recently found to cause groundwater contamination and other serious environmental and human health hazards. While health impact studies are still being conducted, exposure (especially ingestion) to various PFAS substances can increase the prevalence of certain cancers, as well as cause damage to the liver, kidneys and other organs. PFAS are also extremely persistent in the environment and have been shown to bioaccumulate in wildlife.”

According to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, firefighting foams work by rapidly forming a film across the fire surface, preventing the release of flammable fuel vapors and disrupting access to oxygen.

In order to help “mitigate this issue and minimize the risk of danger to your communities” Hussey urged several precautions.

*Departments are to conduct an inventory of firefighting foams and keep strict records regarding the compounds. Hussey noted that foams manufactured prior to 2003 and military specification foams are even more hazardous.

*Departments are to only dispose of firefighting foams through hazardous waste incineration and never through sanitary sewer systems.

*Firefighting foams are never to be used for training purposes as repeated use at a training site can contaminate soil and groundwater. “Use of AFFF near well fields can result in contamination of an entire community’s drinking water,” Hussey said.

*Departments are to conduct a risk-benefit analysis prior to the use of any firefighting foams during an actual emergency involving flammable liquids. If the fire can be controlled with water or a Class A foam, which does not contain PFAS, those tactics are to be used. “If AFFF must be used for life-safety reasons, firefighters should only use the minimum amount needed, control runoff into waterways and report such usage to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.”

*All personnel are to be equipped with proper protective equipment to help minimize firefighters’ exposure.

“In the future, I expect Ohio will see regulation over these foams as several states have already established regulatory oversight,” Hussey said. “I also expect the foam manufacturers to be developing and promoting fluorine-free foams to replace AFFF for class-B fires. Going forward, it will also be vital to prepare for public inquiries regarding foam usage – including questions about class-A foams, which do not carry the same risks as AFFF. Your State Fire Marshal’s office will continue to work with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide education, guidance and mitigation strategies as we learn more about this serious safety risk.”

While the document from Hussey made no mention of it, there are also growing concerns about firefighters’ exposure through their turnout gear. “Unusually high rates of cancer” in firefighters prompted C8 attorney Rob Bilott to demand the US EPA formally study the matter.

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Update: Remediation of Fenton Site Proceeds

Remediation of the former site of Fenton Art Glass is underway in Williamstown as construction crews prepare to build a new elementary school at that location. Even so, several individuals have voiced their concerns to RCNN over the safety of the property.

The Wood County Board of Education approved a plan to remove toxic chemicals left behind from more than 100 years of decorative glassmaking. Concerned residents and parents fear the planned remediation may not be thorough enough to preserve the health of future students at the site.

Earlier this month RCNN reported in addition to lead, sand, soda ash and lime; several coloring agents were used at Fenton including: antimony, arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, lead, nickel, selenium, and zinc. These heavy metals were used in powder form and prior to modern environmental requirements and recycling endeavors were dumped onsite. The Fenton company also had a permit from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to use depleted uranium oxide in the coloring process. (Prior to 1958 glass companies were not required to use depleted uranium.)

Experts say remediation is possible by removing all of the contaminated material and the ground around it. However, thorough testing is also necessary to make sure that all of the contaminated material has been removed.

Wood County Board of Education Superintendent Will Hosaflook said the haul-off of the hazardous materials was expected to be completed this week. He said the engineering company Potesta & Associates would be responsible for testing the site.

“Potesta is reporting findings to WVDEP. If contaminants are still found, the Wood Co. BOE will make a decision,” Hosaflook said.

In response to our initial inquiry, Jake Glace, Communications Director for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, said, “During the geo-technical investigation for the foundation of the school, the engineering firm discovered a pocket of cullet, which is waste glass produced during the glass-making process. This material is being removed and disposed of off-site.”

RCNN inquired about DEP’s role in the project, what sampling would be required, and what thresholds would have to be met regarding these specific contaminants in order for the site to be suitable for an elementary school. RCNN also inquired about a capped landfill at the site, which is never to be disturbed.

“First it is important to understand that we are talking about two different locations – the remediation site and the school construction site. You shouldn’t confuse the two – and it’s very important that you don’t,” Glance said. “The site where the school is being built is not the site where remediation action that you described was conducted. That remediation action did involve capping an area of cullet disposal – and that area is not being disturbed as part of this construction. That cap is several feet below the surface and should pose no threat to human health, unless the area under the cap is dug up and the unearthed material is ingested.”

 

“The role of WVDEP in this process can be defined as advisory to both the BOE and to the BOE’s engineering firm. They came to WVDEP with the results of their geo-technical investigation and requested options on how to proceed. And as I stated previously, the pocket of cullet that was discovered during that geo-technical investigation of the site where the school is being built is being completely removed and safely disposed of off-site. To do this was the decision of the BOE and the BOE’s engineering firm, not WVDEP.”

 

Glance said sampling results would be available under the Freedom of Information Act. RCNN formally requested that data.

 

He described the distinction between the two sites this way, “The area that was capped is not where the school is being built. The cap is not being disturbed as part of this construction. So, the first site is where the school is being built and the second site is where the cap is. You can have one big piece of property but not all of it is being built on or disturbed.”

Independent experts tell RCNN that site plans obtained from the Wood County Board of Education show that the basketball courts and track field would be located closest to the most problematic areas of the property.

Glance added an interesting footnote to his response, “WVDEP headquarters in Charleston is built on an old glass factory site that was capped decades ago. There is also a mall, a DMV regional office, restaurants, a grocery store, a hospital, and banks on this site or nearby now.”

 

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Fenton Property Remediation Raises Concerns

Construction of a new Williamstown Elementary School at the site of the Fenton Art Glass factory is underway and the Wood County Board of Education has approved a plan for the remediation of the property to remove toxic chemicals left behind from more than 100 years of decorative glassmaking. However, several individuals have contacted the River City News Network with concerns that the planned remediation may not be enough to preserve the health of future students at that site.

Sources including state and federal environmental reports reveal that the manufacturing process resulted in the dumping of significant amounts of lead and several heavy metals on the property. Local media has taken to calling the material “unfired cullet”. The raw batch glass materials include sand, soda ash, lime and coloring agents. The coloring agents used at Fenton include antimony, arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, lead, nickel, selenium, and zinc. These heavy metals were used in powder form and prior to modern environmental requirements and recycling endeavors were dumped onsite. The Fenton company also had a permit from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to use depleted uranium oxide in the coloring process. (Depleted uranium is less radioactive but not less toxic.)

Experts say remediation is possible by removing all of the contaminated material and the ground around it. But the current plan is raising concerns because the intent is to remediate only three areas at the site.

 

Editor’s Note: RCNN has requested information about the project through the proper channels and will be seeking answers about the contamination found at the site. Because of its longstanding presence as a major attraction and employer in the community, many individuals also have information about the property and the handling of materials there. Anyone with information or concerns about the project is invited to contact me here or by emailing lyons.callie@gmail.com.  Thank you.

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RCNN Call for Submissions

River City News Network is looking for several contributors with a variety of interests as we expand our content delivery.

We are seeking lifestyle columnists with expertise in such areas as antiques, collectibles, fine dining, cooking, gardening, travel, nature, wellness, as well as individuals to write movie and book reviews.

Additionally, we are seeking submissions of poetry, photography and visual art with preference given to those of particular local interest.

RCNN is looking to feature the original work of local writers, artists, and enthusiasts representing a variety of authentic perspectives.

These are not paid positions but an opportunity to have your work read by tens of thousands of people who live in the Mid-Ohio Valley.

Please send your submissions in the form of a sample column or a brief description of your proposed column,  your original poetry, photography or visual art to lyons.callie@gmail.com. If the work has been published previously please indicate the title and date of publication.

 

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DuPont/Chemours Ask Local Judge to Dismiss Ohio’s PFOA Case

Washington County Judge Randall Burnworth today heard arguments in the State of Ohio’s case against Dupont and Chemours over C8 pollution which allegedly harmed the state’s natural resources.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine filed the suit in February seeking damages from the corporations that profited from the use of PFOA or perfluorooctanoic acid (also known by the DuPont trade name C8) at Washington Works near Parkersburg, West Virginia.

The manmade industrial solvent was used at the plant beginning in the 1950s in the manufacture of Teflon and hundreds of other consumer applications. A class action filed on behalf of area water consumers in 2002 led to the discovery of the chemical in the drinking water of six neighboring communities – Lubeck and Mason County in West Virginia and Belpre, Little Hocking, Pomeroy, and Tuppers Plains/Chester in Ohio. The 2004 settlement of the same suit resulted in a massive health study of nearly 70,000 local residents and linked the contamination to six health conditions: testicular cancer, kidney cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, pre-eclampsia and high cholesterol.

In the most recent legal maneuvering corporate attorneys argued for a motion to dismiss saying that the claims against DuPont and spin-off company Chemours are without merit.

Judge Burnworth offered no specific timeline for his decision on Friday afternoon saying only that he would make a determination before the end of the year when he intends to retire.

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