Three hazardous chemicals have infiltrated campus groundwater, and the school wants Dow and others to pay for clean-up

West Virginia State University (WVSU) in the US is suing Dow Chemical for contaminating the groundwater beneath its campus with three hazardous chemicals. The university acknowledges agreement by outside experts and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that these contaminants do not pose a threat to human health because the WVSU uses municipal water, not groundwater. However, the university says the contamination will limit future construction on a large part of its campus, and wants Dow to pay for the necessary clean-up.

The water is contaminated with 1,4-dioxane at levels up to 36.7ppb; the EPA’s regional screening level (RSL) – considered to be protective for humans over a lifetime – is 0.46ppb. Meanwhile, 1,1-dichloroethane has been detected at 12.3ppb – more than four times the RSL of 2.8ppb; and chloroform has been found as high as 29.9ppb, whereas its RSL is 0.22ppb.

Dow has acknowledged to government regulators that its nearby plant in Institute is the source of the contaminants. However, several other companies that have or had operations at the nearby plant, including Bayer and Sanofi, are also named in the university’s lawsuit.

‘This lawsuit is about property damage, not any immediate health concern,’ explained WVSU’s president, Anthony Jenkins, in a letter to staff and students. To ensure that no exposure occurs in the future, he said Dow will have to restore the site to its original condition, pay for protective measures and fund ongoing monitoring of contaminant levels.