Sunday, August 7, 2022

Governor Roy Cooper announces DEQ will not renew Chemours’ current permit

Governor Roy Cooper addressed the media Monday morning to discuss GenX in the Cape Fear River (Port City Daily Photo/MICHAEL PRAATS)
Governor Roy Cooper addressed the media Monday morning to discuss GenX in the Cape Fear River (Port City Daily Photo / MICHAEL PRAATS)

WILMINGTON — Governor Roy Cooper announced today that the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality will not renew the permit for The Chemours Company as currently written.

Cooper met with officials from New Hanover County, as well as surrounding counties and municipalities, Monday morning to discuss how the state is responding to the release of the compound known as GenX (perfluoro-2-propoxypropanoic acid [PFPrOPrA]) into the Cape Fear River.

The meeting between the governor and local leaders was closed to the public and the media, except for one reporter from Star News. The situation was similar to the meeting held between Chemours and local officials in June where only one reporter was granted access to the meeting.

“Chemours has applied for a new permit that is pending. I want to make it clear here today that the Department of Environmental Quality is going to deny Chemours’ request, and to deny their permit to release GenX into the river,” Cooper said.

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There will be a new permit draft released to Chemours preventing the release of GenX into the water supply. The company had already voluntarily stopped the released of GenX in June, according to a letter from Chemours to investors.

Cooper also announced that he is asking the State Bureau of Investigation to look into the release of GenX and investigate the possibility of any criminal offenses committed by Chemours.

County Chairman Woody White introduced Governor Roy Cooper at Monday morning's press conference regarding GenX (Port City Daily photo/MICHAEL PRAATS)
County Chairman Woody White introduced Governor Roy Cooper at Monday morning’s press conference regarding GenX (Port City Daily photo/MICHAEL PRAATS)

“I want to know if any criminal violation has occurred here. I have directed the SBI to assess whether a criminal investigation is warranted here,” Cooper said.

While Chemours was granted a consent order from the EPA, Cooper said he will ensure no laws were broken, and if so, the company will be held accountable.

“Back when I was a state legislator, I wrote and got passed a bill that made it a felony to knowingly violate clean water standards, that bill remains law today,” Cooper said.

The Governor has requested the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conduct a public health assessment and review any potential long-term health effects from GenX.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen also spoke during the conference and she assured residents the water coming from CFPUA is safe to drink, and the low levels of GenX found in the water posed no threat.

(Read more: Here’s what it will take to get answers about GenX’s health effects)

Cohen also confirmed there is currently no filtration system on the market capable of removing GenX at a consumer level.

Cooper admitted while GenX is the topic of discussion, there are several other unregulated emerging compounds which will require more testing. The Governor has also expanded the scope of the Science Advisory Board to aid in research addressing water quality.

“North Carolina DEQ will make changes to its permit application (process) that will require companies to disclose more information about the unregulated pollutants they release. DEQ will also require additional monitoring of unregulated pollutants for the purposes of developing water quality standards and improved transparency,” according to a press release from the governor sent after the press conference.

Cooper said he intends to return to the Cape Fear Region in the next few weeks and will continue to work with local leaders to ensure the quality of drinking water in the region and the state.

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