Controversial Study Points Pollution Finger At Dupont

Attorneys in a lawsuit against DuPont Delisle are defending scientific findings that suggest the plant is a source of large scale pollution.

The "Journal of Shellfish Research" recently published a study on contamination levels in oysters harvested in and around the Bay of St. Louis. However, not everyone is convinced of the researcher's motives.

The controversy centers around just who was behind the research. A Dallas law firm paid for the study and it represents someone suing DuPont.

For that reason DuPont officials say the study is unreliable.

To get an idea of Dupont Delisle's impact on St. Louis Bay and surrounding waters, scientists compared the pollution levels found in oysters back in 1978, one year before the plant was built, to toxins levels found in 2004.

The results indicate a 467 percent increase in Nickel and an increase of 1167 percent in Chromium which a substance known to cause kidney damage. Dupont officials say the study didn't take into account other possible pollution sources.

DuPont also questions the motives of the scientists doing the work.

"My understanding is that in this study the authors were retained by plaintiff's council," said Dupont Safety, Health, & Environmental Manager Brad Martin.

"We have some concerns with the conclusions that were drawn from their information. We believe there are some inaccuracies in their conclusions."

Local attorney Al Hopkins is working with Baron & Budd which is the Dallas firm that paid for the study.

Hopkins defended the findings saying, "It is a report that has been published by world class scientists and experts. While part of their research may have been funded, it is certainly an independent decision by them in regards to the results of their research."

As far as public health, the study claims less than one oyster a day from the Bay of St. Louis is safe for eating.

Local biologist Ed Cake took part in the study. He declined to do an interview with WLOX because of the pending litigation.

But in comments published in the "The Sun Herald", Cake urged state and local environmental protection agencies to get involved.

"If they don't undertake a study of their own to confirm or refute these results, then the public will not be served," said Cake. "The public will be at risk from what we found in those oysters."

Dupont officials say such independent studies have already been done.

"What I can tell you is that we've had four independent government agencies that have recently taken a look at Dupont Delisle emissions and have confirmed that there is no impact from our emissions on human health or the environment," said Martin.

Dupont officials say the first of several lawsuits against the company is supposed to start in Jones County on August 17th.