RALEIGH, NC (WWAY) — Attorney General Josh Stein has filed a lawsuit against DuPont, Chemours, and related companies to “hold them accountable for the damage their manufacture, use, and disposal of PFAS chemicals have caused to North Carolina’s natural resources.”
According to the complaint filed on Tuesday, DuPont and Chemours have contaminated the land, air, water, and other valuable natural resources around their Fayetteville Works Facility, in the Cape Fear River, and in downstream communities with PFAS for decades. The suit says this all happened while DuPont knew that these chemicals pose significant threats to human health and the environment.
“We are seeking all forms of restitution,” Stein said. “We want them to pay for the harms they’ve created. We are going to seek relief for people who have had bad water, and other forms of damages they’ve incurred. It’s important that they pay these people what they owe.”
In August, Attorney General Stein announced a formal investigation into those responsible for PFAS contamination in North Carolina. This is the first case the Attorney General is bringing as a result of that ongoing investigation, which may result in additional legal action.
“DuPont and Chemours have dumped PFAS into North Carolina’s drinking water even as they knew these forever chemicals pose threats to human health and our natural resources,” Stein said. “These companies maximized their profits at the expense of the people of North Carolina. That’s wrong. I am taking DuPont and Chemours to court to make them pay for the mess they made.”
The lawsuit, filed in Cumberland County Superior Court, seeks to hold both Chemours and DuPont accountable for the damages they have caused to North Carolina’s drinking water supplies, fisheries, and other natural resources. It also asks the court to void certain corporate transactions among the companies, calling it a complex scheme designed to shield billions of dollars in assets from the State and others who the companies knew were damaged by their conduct.
“Because they engaged in a series of corporate transactions in recent years to put all the liabilities on Chemours, the company in Fayetteville, and strip out all of its assets, or most of the value. That’ wrong, and we need to make sure the court gets that money and disgorges their ill-gotten gains,” Stein said.
PFAS, or forever chemicals, are harmful to human health. Health experts say they can cause kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, cholesterol, hypertension, and damage to the immune system.
In 2017, NCDOJ lawyers took Chemours to court on behalf of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (“DEQ”) to stop Chemours from discharging PFAS, including GenX, into the Cape Fear River and emitting those substances into the air. As a result, a Consent Order was issued by the court in 2019, and amended on Monday.
The Order requires Chemours to install air emissions control technology to reduce PFAS emissions by 99.9%; prevent discharge of PFAS to the Cape Fear River; provide clean drinking water to affected private well-users near the Fayetteville Works; assess the extent of existing contamination; and develop a plan to clean up historical contamination of soil and groundwater on an expedited basis. Monday’s amendment requires Chemours to take significant additional actions to reduce PFAS entering the Cape Fear River through residual groundwater contamination.
DEQ described its Consent Order as the first steps in a broad strategy to address PFAS in the Cape Fear River Basin, and DEQ retained its authority to investigate other contributors to PFAS contamination, including contributors upstream of the facility, and to take additional legal action if necessary based on new information. Attorney General Stein’s lawsuit filed on Tuesday compliments DEQ’s regulatory actions.
CFPUA released the following statement in regards to the lawsuit:
We have not had an opportunity to study the lawsuit, so we cannot comment about it specifically. Regardless, CFPUA applauds continued, diligent efforts by the State to hold Chemours and DuPont responsible for their decades of PFAS releases while operating profitably at the Fayetteville Works industrial site, which is about 55 miles up the Cape Fear River from CFPUA’s raw water intakes.
PFAS from the Fayetteville Works are largely responsible for the PFAS we continue to detect in our regular monitoring of river water – and the reason why CFPUA has been taking steps to reduce PFAS in raw water we treat at the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant. This includes the $43 million Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) filters under construction at Sweeney and scheduled to be operational by early 2022.
Separate from the State’s actions, CFPUA has filed a federal civil suit against Chemours and DuPont to recover the costs of the new GAC filters and other damages we and our customers have incurred and will incur as a result of the two companies’ pollution.
Chemours released the following statement in response to the lawsuit:
“We are currently reviewing the filing in detail. Chemours has operated as an independent company since July 1, 2015. Since that time, Chemours has taken definitive action to address active emissions and historic deposition at our Fayetteville site, and continues to do so. Chemours has cooperated with the State of North Carolina to address PFAS concerns, and has agreed to a court approved Consent Order and its addendum, which was entered by the court yesterday. Our investment in emissions control technology has significantly decreased GenX emissions by 99% and our thermal oxidizer continues to destroy PFAS with greater than 99.99% efficiency. We continue to decrease PFAS loading to the Cape Fear River and began operation on September 30, 2020 of a capture and treatment system for one pathway at the site. Under the CO Addendum, Chemours will take a number of measures to address PFAS loadings from other pathways, including onsite groundwater to the Cape Fear River.”