updated 7/8/2004 7:30:03 PM ET 2004-07-08T23:30:03

The government will seek millions of dollars in fines against chemical giant DuPont for failing to provide information on potential risks of a chemical used to make Teflon, officials said Thursday.

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The Environmental Protection Agency alleges that from 1981 to 2001, DuPont failed to comply with federal reporting requirements regarding the synthetic chemical perfluorooctanoic acid, known as PFOA or C8.

DuPont maintains the chemical isn’t harmful to humans or the environment, and that it has complied with reporting requirements, spokesman Clif Webb said.

The chemical is used in the manufacturing of fluoropolymers, including Teflon products, at DuPont’s Washington Works facility near Parkersburg, W.Va.

Residents living near the plant say their health and drinking water have been harmed by the chemical. They have filed a class-action lawsuit, with a trial expected to begin in September.

In the EPA case, DuPont faces a potential maximum fine of some $300 million though it’s unlikely the agency will pursue such a figure, said Tom Skinner, head of the EPA’s enforcement office.

“It is accurate to say that we will be seeking millions,” Skinner said.

EPA officials stressed Thursday’s action concerns only reporting requirements. The agency is conducting a separate investigation on whether there are any health or environmental risks from the chemical.

Attorney Ed Hill, who is representing residents near the West Virginia plant, said the first phase of their class-action lawsuit will determine if DuPont should be required to provide medical testing to residents. Later phases will focus on property damages and restitution, Hill said.

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