HEW HANOVER COUNTY — One day after hiring a new public information officer, the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority sent out a press release addressing its ongoing concerns of The Chemours Company. It’s not a new message, but it certainly had a new tone.
“Congratulations, Chemours; now please own up to your responsibilities,” reads the subject line of the latest release, which goes on to cite today’s News Journal article on a speech given by Chemours CEO Mark Vergano to business and government leaders in Wilmington, Delaware.
In that speech, Vergano denied that Chemours was “set up to fail” — that is, to absorb assets from DuPont that could be or were already tied up in litigation — as some investment commentators have speculated. He went on to say the company was “flourishing,” earning $6.2 billion in 2017, and remaining strong in the market in 2018.
(It’s worth noting that the relationship between Chemours and the state is a bit less acrimonious in Delaware than it is in North Carolina; as the News Journal noted, Delaware gave Chemours an $8 million grant to keep their headquarters in Wilmington in 2016).
CFPUA congratulated Chemours on this success, although it’s hard to say that the utility did so with no trace of irony.
“CFPUA doesn’t begrudge Chemours’ success. We simply want them to do what any responsible company, what any good neighbor, would do: Take responsibility for the problems it has caused,” the release states.
The release goes on to point out that such a successful company might have $46 million – the estimated cost of CFPUA’s planned treatment upgrades at the Sweeney Treatment Plant – to spare: “So given Chemours’ success, we can’t help but ask: Shouldn’t a flourishing company like Chemours step up to pay that $46 million, the equivalent of 0.7 percent of 2017 revenue, to fix this problem they caused?”
The release concludes, “We aren’t the only ones asking. Almost 200,000 people in New Hanover County depend on the water CFPUA provides. They want to know why Chemours isn’t footing the bill to remove PFAS compounds from their water. Like us, they’re still waiting for an answer.”
The release was part of “team effort,” according to newly hired CFPUA Spokesperson and former reporter Vaughn Hagerty. There’s no telling if the new, ever-so-slightly snarky tone, will have break Chemours’ notorious silence (aside from few public meetings, the company has stonewalled residents, media, public utilities, and even the state).