DEQ, Chemours reach agreement to further reduce PFAS pollution

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Chemours (Photo: WWAY)

SOUTHEASTERN NC (WWAY) — The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and Chemours have reached another agreement that will reduce PFAS pollution from entering the Cape Fear River through groundwater.

Since 2017, DEQ actions and the Consent Order have stopped the process wastewater discharge from the facility and drastically reduced air emissions of PFAS by 99.9%. The additional actions presented Thursday in the Addendum to the Consent Order will further reduce the PFAS contamination to the Cape Fear River and improve water quality for downstream communities.

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These additional actions address more than 90% of the PFAS entering the Cape Fear River through groundwater from the residual contamination on the site.

“We have already issued significant penalties and ordered Chemours to stop actively polluting. Today’s actions lay out exactly how Chemours will clean up the residual contamination they’ve caused that continues to impact communities along the Cape Fear River,” said DEQ Secretary Michael S. Regan. “This level of action is unprecedented and continues to build a foundation for the Attorney General’s broader investigation of PFAS in North Carolina. As a state, we will not wait for action from the federal government to provide relief for our communities and protect our natural resources.”

Moving forward, Chemours is required to treat four identified ‘seeps’ which account for more than half of the contaminated groundwater reaching the river in two phases.

  • The interim measures to filter PFAS at an efficiency of at least 80% from the first of the four seeps will go into effect starting by Mid-November – with all four completed by April 2021.
  • The permanent measure is the construction of a subsurface barrier wall approximately 1.5 miles long and groundwater extraction system that will remove at least 99% of PFAS to be completed by March 2023.

Chemours is also required to treat on-site stormwater that is adding residual pollution to the river with a capture and treatment system that must remove at least 99% of PFAS.

  • Failure to meet the schedules or achieve the removal goals will result in financial penalties, including:
  • Failure to meet the construction schedule for the interim measures will result in fines of $5,000 per day for the first 14 days and $10,000/day until construction is complete.
  • Failure to meet the barrier wall installation schedule results in a $150,000 fine followed by $20,000 per week until installation is complete.
  • Failure to meet the barrier wall’s 95% mass loading goal in the initial demonstration results in a $500,000 fine, with a $100,000 fine for failure to meet any of the four subsequent demonstrations.

“We believe this commitment is significant and meaningful; it aligns to our Chemours Corporate Responsibility Commitments to reduce the emissions of PFAS by at least 99% at all Chemours manufacturing sites worldwide,” Chemours said in a news release. “These actions are in addition to the successful installation of over $100 million in emissions control technology, including a state-of-the art thermal oxidizer, that are controlling over 99% of all PFAS emissions from our manufacturing processes, a treatment system for the historic discharge channel at the site that is under construction and scheduled to be commissioned in late September pending NC DEQs issuance of a permit, and the extensive actions to provide a permanent drinking water source for private well owners whose wells tested above PFAS levels as provided in the Consent Order Agreement.”

However, CFPUA was surprised by the Chemours Consent Order addendum. CFPUA said it was not provided with an advanced copy of the addendum.

“It is disappointing that we and our customers have once again been excluded by the State from these discussions about a subject that is of vital interest to our community,” said CFPUA Executive Director Jim Flechtner.

“We have seen no evidence this or any of the steps proposed so far by Chemours will sufficiently improve water quality to the same level that the State has set as the standard for private well owners around Chemours’ site,” Flechtner said. “We continue to be frustrated that our customers continue to be treated differently than people near the plant.”

The Addendum to the Consent Order with the additional requirements and penalties will be provided for public comment for 30 days. The comment period will be announced next week. DEQ will consider the public comments before the Addendum is presented for entry by the Bladen County Superior Court. The Addendum is available here.