Friday, February 3, 2023

CFPUA: Chemours settlement doesn’t fix New Hanover County problems, filtration costs still uncertain

The settlement was hailed as a victory by local environmental groups. But CFPUA is arguing that the settlement does not cover any of the local issues cause by Chemours' production of PFAS.

CFPUA has taken issue with the proposed settlement between NCDEQ and Chemours. (Port City Daily photo / CFPUA)
CFPUA has taken issue with the proposed settlement between NCDEQ and Chemours. (Port City Daily photo / CFPUA)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority has voiced a series of concerns over the proposed $13 million settlement between Chemours and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, arguing that the agreement does “not resolve the problem of PFAS contamination in drinking water” for the county.

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

Announced late in the evening before Thanksgiving, the proposed consent agreement would see Chemours paying a $12 million fine to the NCDEQ, plus a $1 million fee to cover the cost of DEQ investigation, along with new requirements for filtration. While noting that the settlement would address some issues in the Bladen County region, CFPUA pointed out the agreement would not provide much help in New Hanover County.

According to the DEQ, the fine will go towards the state’s education budget. The money will not go towards covering $50 million in filtration planning and upgrades at CFPUA (nor will it go towards H2GO’s $30 million reverse osmosis plant, or Brunswick County’s $100 million plant).

CFPUA Executive Director Jim Flechtner said the utility had not been notified of the impending settlement offer and that DEQ had not discussed the issue of whether fines levied on Chemours could be used to fund filtration efforts.

According to a statement issued by CFPUA on Monday, “CFPUA has been communicating our concerns regarding PFAS [pre- and poly-fluorinated chemical compounds] to NCDEQ and NCDHHS. While we have received prompt responses from NCDHHS, we have yet to receive a response to our most recent request from Secretary Michael Regan at North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. We continue to require guidance from state regulatory agencies to ensure we are fully protecting public health.”

CFPUA’s statement noted several other concerns about the agreement, noting that the utility would need more time to develop a complete technical and legal analysis of the issue.

  • As currently written, the proposed order fails to provide a solution for the citizens of New Hanover County who continue to be exposed to PFAS compounds at levels higher than 10 parts per trillion, individually, and 70 parts per trillion combined.
  • As currently written, the proposed order does not address river sediment contamination, nor does it suggest possible remediation solutions.
  • As currently written, the proposed order does not address damages to groundwater in New Hanover County through the contamination of the Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) site.

Flechtner said he could not comment on CFPUA’s own ongoing lawsuit against Chemours — which could, if successful, cover the costs of the utility’s upgrade.

According to the utility’s statement, “CFPUA does not believe the draft consent order will affect our ongoing lawsuit against Chemours and Dupont. Ratepayers should not bear the cost of additional treatment associated with PFAS and we will continue to pursue legal action.”

You can read CFPUA’s full statement here.


Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at ben@localvoicemedia.com, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001.

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