CFPUA: Chemours needs to stop discharging compounds utility can’t filter from water
WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority says Chemours needs to stop two newly discharging newly discovered compounds into the Cape Fear River and that state regulators need to do everything they can to make it happen.
CFPUA was informed by the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) that scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have been working to identify other per-fluorinated compounds in the Cape Fear River discovered in a November 2016 report by North Carolina State University.
DEQ announced Wednesday that the scientists have been able to identify and test for five of these compounds.
The preliminary report provides the results for samples taken from Chemours’ Outfall 002 and finished water from Sweeney Water Treatment Plant over a six-week time period. The results show that the levels of three of these compounds decreased as levels of GenX decreased. Levels of two other compounds, known as Nafion byproducts 1 and 2, did not decrease. A chart of the results from the finished water at Sweeney Water Treatment Plant for these two compounds is below:
|Date||Nafion Byproduct 1 (ppt)||Nafion Byproduct 2 (ppt)|
DHHS informed CFPUA that, after consulting with EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they are unable to establish a health goal for Nafion at this time, due to the fact that no health studies on the effects of Nafion could be identified. However, after reviewing the results, DHHS reiterated their guidance that the public can continue to drink the water.
“Chemours was made aware of these sampling results on Tuesday, Aug. 29. In response, we are now investigating the potential that these two substances are byproducts of the IXM production unit at Chemours Fayetteville manufacturing site,” the company said in a statement e-mailed to WWAY. “We are working with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality to understand their data and gain additional clarity regarding these samples. As we gather this additional information, we are also working to determine the appropriate next steps.”
Chemours says Nafion is actually a brand name for its membrane products. “The accurate reference is to ‘byproducts of the IXM (Ion Exchange Materials) production unit,'” the company told WWAY.
Given that, based upon the available data, Sweeney Water Treatment Plant is unable to effectively remove these compounds from the water, CFPUA says it believes Chemours needs to immediately stop all discharge of the compounds to the river until sufficient data can be collected to set a health goal. DEQ has the authority to prohibit further discharge of Nafion byproducts, and CFPUA says it has asked DEQ to exercise that authority immediately and without delay.
In response to the presence of the compound GenX, CFPUA says it has already begun several processes that they believe will apply to these new compounds as well. Staff at the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant has been conducting a pilot test of Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) and Ion Exchange (IX) technologies that have the potential to be effective in removing per-fluorinated compounds such as GenX and the newly discovered compounds. As soon as the pilot test begins to produce results, CFPUA will make that information public.
Earlier this week, CFPUA entered into a contract with University of North Carolina Wilmington to continue investigating other compounds in the Cape Fear River. Thursday’s findings highlight the importance of this effort. We believe this study will produce results valuable to regulatory agencies at the state and federal levels as they continue to investigate whether additional regulatory action is required in the Cape Fear River Basin.
CFPUA says it is considering all legal actions. On August 3, CFPUA’s environmental counsel filed a Notice of Intent informing Chemours and Dupont of a citizens suit CFPUA intends to bring against them for violation of the Clean Water Act.
CFPUA says it believes NCDEQ has an obligation to take decisive action. It has asked DEQ to revoke or modify Chemours’ NPDES permit.