Saturday, February 4, 2023

Chemours agrees to pay $13 million in fine for GenX, CFPUA left out of negotiations

The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority is recommending to its board that a $5 credit be issued to the thousands of residences affected by high fluoride levels. The spike in fluoride levels was caused by a mechanical malfunction. (Port City Daily photo | Benjamin Schachtman)
The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (Port City Daily photo | Benjamin Schachtman)

WILMINGTON — Chemours, the company responsible for dumping the chemical compound GenX into the Cape Fear watershed, has reached a deal with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Cape Fear River Watch — a deal that includes a $13 million fine for Chemours.

“The proposed consent order is a comprehensive resolution regarding per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination originating from Chemours’ Fayetteville Works facility. It requires Chemours to dramatically reduce GenX air emissions, provide permanent replacement drinking water supplies and pay a civil penalty to DEQ,” according to a DEQ press release.

The agreement orders Chemours to pay a $12 million fine and $1 million for investigation costs incurred by the state.

There are several specific conditions Chemours must agree to based on the new orders including:

  • Provide permanent drinking water supplies 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 or applicable health advisory.
  • Provide, install and maintain three under-sink reverse osmosis drinking water systems for well owners with combined PFAS levels above 70 parts per trillion or any individual PFAS compound above 10 parts per trillion.
  • Reduce air emissions of GenX through control technology with a schedule of reduction milestones.
    • By Dec. 31, 2018, complete construction of new emission controls to achieve a 92 percent reduction of facility-wide GenX compound air emissions compared to the 2017 baseline level.
    • By Dec. 31, 2019, install a thermal oxidizer to control all PFAS from multiple process streams,  demonstrate PFAS reductions at an effectiveness of 99.99 percent efficiency and a 99 percent reduction facility-wide for GenX emissions compared to the 2017 baseline level.
  • Continue to capture all process wastewater from its operations at the facility for off-site disposal until a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit is issued that authorizes the discharge of process wastewater.
  • Conduct health studies to determine potential health risks associated with the release of PFAS compounds into the environment.
  • Sample drinking water wells at least one-quarter mile beyond the closest well that had PFAS levels above 10 parts per trillion as well as annually retest wells that were previously sampled.
  • Submit and implement a plan for sampling all process and non-process wastewater and stormwater streams to identify any additional PFAS.
  • Submit to DEQ for approval a Corrective Action Plan that, once approved, is implemented and reduces PFAS contributions in groundwater along the Cape Fear River by at least 75 percent.
  • Notify and coordinate with 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 the health goal of 140 parts per trillion.

CFPUA left out of the loop

The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA), the water supplier for New Hanover County, was kept out of negotiations between the company and the state, but are currently reviewing the agreement.

“Cape Fear Public Utility Authority was not part of any negotiation or discussion related to the draft consent order that NCDEQ released Wednesday.  As such, we are reviewing the document and will submit both technical and legal comments to NCDEQ in the future.  We will make those comments public when they are provided to NCDEQ,” according to a release from CFPUA.

CFPUA agrees the document touches on some important topics, but there are still questions left to consider according to the utility.

“While the draft document appears to address some important issues surrounding future PFAS contamination, it does not appear to consider or address how downstream utilities and their customers have been affected and the possible lingering effects of the broad spectrum of PFAS contamination. In addition, it does not address the effects of detected PFAS accumulation in river sediment,” the release states.


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