Tuesday, August 9, 2022

CFPUA takes legal action to intervene on DEQ’s ‘inadequate’ Chemours consent order

Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) has filed a legal motion to intervene in the state's lawsuit against Chemours. In the legal filing, the utility argues the state's recent settlement with Chemours is not adequate to protect CFPUA's interests.

Chemours headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware. A DuPont spin-off, Chemours has agreed to pay the state a total of $13 million in a recent consent order, in which the company admits to no wrongdoing. (Port City Daily/Courtesy Google Maps)
Chemours headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware. A DuPont spin-off, Chemours has agreed to pay the state a total of $13 million in a recent consent order, in which the company admits to no wrongdoing. (Port City Daily/Courtesy Google Maps)

SOUTHEASTERN, N.C. — Cape Fear Pubilc Utility Authority filed a motion to intervene in the state’s lawsuit against Chemours today, after voicing concerns that a recent consent order was a sub-par solution to the region’s water crisis.

The state first announced its agreement with chemical manufacturer Chemours over its chemical discharges of fluorinated compounds in the Cape Fear River on Thanksgiving eve.

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At first, state representatives celebrated the decision, which granted the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) a $12 million fine and $1 million to recoup investigative expenses —  the largest environmental fine in state history.

But soon, criticism emerged around the timing of the order, and the groups notably left out of the settlement. In signing the consent agreement between the DEQ, Cape Fear River Watch, and Chemours, the chemical company admitted to no legal wrongdoing. Though Chemours agreed to fund extensive groundwater testing, no mention of funding surface water treatment efforts was included.

New Hanover County Commissioner Woody White called for the county’s support in joining CFPUA’s opposition to the consent order. White, a lawyer, wrote to fellow commissioners in an email that the order allows Chemours to avoid “future punishment for past actions.”

In announcing its motion to intervene, CFPUA said the DEQ has not provided “substantive responses” to the utility’s questions. CFPUA’s line of questioning to the state has continued for over a year, its release states.

The consent motion, according to CFPUA’s motion to intervene, is “inadequate.”

“It disregards the gravity of the violation—releasing untold quantities of undisclosed toxic substances into the Cape Fear River, exposing the entire population of the lower Cape Fear River basin to risk of negative health outcomes,” the motion states.

CFPUA is pursuing a $50 million granular activated carbon solution and Brunswick County plans to spend $100 million on a different filtration method, a reverse-osmosis plant. Both have independently filed their own lawsuits against Chemours, and have publicly stated they hope to recover funds spent on their water treatment efforts from the polluter, rather than pass the burden to ratepayers.

Notably, Brunswick County has not publicly weighed in on the consent order since its Nov. 21 announcement.


Send tips and comments to Johanna Ferebee at johanna@localvoicemedia.com

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