WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The company that makes GenX upstream from Wilmington says it will take additional steps to keep the chemical compound out of the Cape Fear River as federal regulators say they are investigating.
In a news release The Chemours Company said “it will capture, remove and safely dispose of wastewater that contains the byproduct GenX generated from fluoromonomers production at its manufacturing plant in Fayetteville.” Chemours says the process will begin tomorrow, but it would not elaborate on what new steps would be taken.
GenX has been found in the approximately 70 miles of the Cape Fear River between the plant at the Cumberland-Bladen county line and Wilmington, including at the intake site for the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority. CFPUA says it is currently unable to remove the compound, which is a key ingredient in Teflon, from its drinking water system through its water treatment plant.
“This action complements the abatement technology already put in place at the Fayetteville site in 2013,” the Chemours news release reads.
A company spokesman told WWAY these are “interim steps” to keep GenX out of the river. Meanwhile, the EPA is investigating whether Chemours is in compliance with a 2009 order issued under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) for the production of GenX.
“This investigation will allow EPA to determine whether Chemours is in compliance with requirements of the order to control releases to the environment at the Fayetteville, N.C., facility,” an EPA spokesperson said in an e-mail to WWAY. “EPA is also reviewing the additional toxicity data submitted by the company, as required under the consent order, and updating the risk assessment using the additional toxicity data specific to GenX.”
The announcement from Chemours comes a day after the NC Department of Environmental Quality began taking new samples from the river. It also comes after local governments and the CFPUA called on the company to stop dumping GenX-contaminated water into the Cape Fear River. The company would not agree last week to do that. Local leaders have also asked for state and federal regulators to put a stop to the dumping.
At a meeting last week in Wilmington with local and state leaders, Chemours agreed to pay for the sample collecting and testing at a lab in Colorado. The EPA has also agreed to do independent lab tests on the samples.
“Chemours’s announcement today to capture, remove and safely dispose of the wastewater that contains the chemical compound known as GenX from the Cape Fear River is a step in the right direction,” NC Secretary of Environment Quality said in a statement. “However, the NC Department of Environmental Quality and the NC Department of Health and Human Services plan to continue to investigate this issue until we have answers to address the concerns of downstream water users.”
Chemours also said last week it believes the GenX in the river is not from its GenX production facility at the Fayetteville Works site. Instead it said it’s coming from another facility at the site, where GenX is an unregulated byproduct of the production of vinyl ether and has been since 1980. Chemours says it installed abatement technology in late 2013 to cut down the amount of GenX that winds up in the river.
Chemours says the amounts of GenX in the Cape Fear River found so far have been well below the health screening level announced by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services on June 12. The company says it believes the emissions from its Fayetteville facility have not impacted the safety of drinking water.
The EPA says it typically investigates potential TSCA noncompliance through a review of production and environmental controls records required by any rule or order and, as needed, an on-site inspection. EPA may also use information requests to inform our investigation. The EPA says when it issued the consent order, the risk assessment for GenX was based on available toxicity data for GenX and analogous substances such as PFOA (also known as C8). The consent order required the company to conduct additional toxicity testing on GenX. The EPA says it has received the data from Chemours and is using it to update its risk assessment.
Chemours says it does not have enough information about the investigation to respond to a question about it, but the company will continue to work closely with local and state officials to answer questions, provide information as needed and determine next steps. Chemours is in the process of renewing its state environmental permit.