SOUTHEASTERN NC (WWAY) — In a move some environmental groups call an ‘important first step’, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality today filed a Revised Consent Order that will hold Chemours accountable for PFAS contamination, including GenX, in the Cape Fear Region.
According to a news release from NCDEQ, the order is a critical step to provide relief to people around the Fayetteville Works facility and to communities downstream.
“People affected by GenX and PFAS pollution in the Cape Fear River basin deserve real relief, and this order provides that relief,” said Secretary Michael Regan. “We listened to the comments from the community, from leaders and from public utilities and have established a strong path forward to protect water quality and public health.”
The order will require Chemours to address all sources of PFAS at the facility to prevent further impacts to air, soil, groundwater and surface waters. It will be implemented under the supervision of DEQ, Bladen County Superior Court, and, for certain portions, Cape Fear River Watch. The order does not prevent other parties from taking action against Chemours.
The order has been revised in response to more than 380 public comments received by DEQ since November. As a result of revisions to the order, Chemours will now be required to:
- Report air emissions of GenX compounds each month.
- Measure and analyze Chemours’ contribution to PFAS contamination at downstream public utilities’ raw water intakes.
- Submit an analysis of PFAS contamination in river sediment.
- Remove 99% of the contamination of the surface water and groundwater from an old outfall at the site.
- Provide downstream public utilities with an accelerated plan to reduce PFAS contamination in the Cape Fear River.
- Provide effective systems to treat drinking water fountains and sinks in public buildings.
- Ensure that filtration systems are operating properly and are maintained for a minimum of 20 years.
Entrance of this order will not prevent DEQ from taking any future enforcement action against Chemours if the agency acquires new information that indicates additional enforcement measures are warranted. In addition, nothing in the order releases any other entity, including DuPont, from any liability it may have resulting from its actions. In addition to these new requirements in the order, the order requires Chemours to take the following actions:
- Reduce GenX emissions by 99% and control air emissions of all PFAS routed to a new thermal oxidizer by at least 99.99%.
- Achieve maximum reductions in PFAS loading to the Cape Fear River from all sources on an accelerated basis.
- Provide permanent drinking water supplies – either in the form of either a public waterline connection or whole building filtration system – for those with drinking water wells with GenX above 140 parts per trillion.
- Provide under-sink reverse osmosis drinking water systems for well owners with combined concentrations of certain PFAS above 70 parts per trillion or concentrations of certain individual PFAS above 10 parts per trillion.
- Sample drinking water wells at least one-quarter mile beyond the closest well that had concentrations of certain PFAS above 10 parts per trillion.
- Annually retest wells in a manner sufficient to determine the extent of contamination.
- Submit and implement a plan for sampling all process and non-process wastewater and stormwater to identify and measure concentrations of PFAS, including non-targeted analysis to identify PFAS that have not been previously identified.
- Notify downstream public water utilities when an event at the facility has the potential to cause a discharge of GenX compounds into the Cape Fear River above 140 parts per trillion.
“Cape Fear River Watch continues to stand up for clean water for all North Carolinians,” said Cape Fear Riverkeeper Kemp Burdette. “This consent order is an important first step in stopping pollution from leaving the Chemours site and entering the Cape Fear River, ground water, and the air. We are committed to seeing this process through until Chemours can prove that they have cleaned up the mess they have created.”
The order was signed by Secretary Regan on behalf of DEQ, representatives of Chemours, the Cape Fear River Keeper and their counsel of record, the Southern Environmental Law Center.
“From the beginning, our focus has been to stop Chemours’ pollution of our air, water and soil, and to hold the company accountable for contaminating the river, groundwater, and communities,” said Geoff Gisler, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “This order will result in cleaner air, a cleaner Cape Fear, and cleaner drinking water for families nearby and downstream.”
Chemours also released the following statement in response to Wednesday’s court filing.
In May 2018, Chemours announced a goal of decreasing its emissions of GenX and other PFAS at Fayetteville Works by 99% or greater by the end of 2019. We believe the proposed Consent Order is a complement to that commitment—providing a regulatory framework, oversight, and continued transparency of progress on our commitments.
Chemours has continued to adhere to the emissions control measures of the proposed Consent Order throughout the public comment period and as DEQ has been considering the comments. In those three months, we have completed the installation of a carbon adsorption system to reduce air emissions of GenX compounds and other PFAS from the Vinyl Ether North unit at the Fayetteville Works site. The Consent Order required installation by the end of December 2018 and control efficiency of at least 93% by March 31, 2019. System installation was completed before the end of December, has been operational since and has been shown to have an efficiency of 93.9%.
DEQ’s decision to sign and seek court approval of the proposed Consent Order is a positive step for all stakeholders. It provides the framework for implementing specialized state-of-the-art emission control technology that will make the Fayetteville plant a best-in-class chemical manufacturing facility for air and wastewater emission control. It also provides for implementation of robust remediation programs and the provision of alternative drinking water supplies for a large number of homeowners with private wells, most of whom have existing water supplies that do not exceed any health based advisory.
We are pleased that the Cape Fear River Watch, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, remains a party to this agreement and we are looking forward to working with them and DEQ collaboratively throughout the implementation of the Consent Order, when approved.
While the core commitments of the Consent Order remain the same as in the version previously made public, the order submitted for court approval includes many enhancements and clarifications that reflect DEQ’s consideration of the public comments it received. The changes require new or enhanced commitments by Chemours and reflect progress already achieved.