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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Update: Chemours, Kuraray release statements, CFPUA resumes drawing water but still monitoring

Update 3:30 p.m. — CFPUA has resumed drawing water from the Cape Fear River. The utility will continue “regular water-quality monitoring,” according to a release this afternoon.

Update 1 p.m. — A representative from Kuraray America issued the following statement:

Officials with Kuraray America, Inc. confirm operations at the Fayetteville Works
Plant are currently shut down as their team investigates an escape of 3GO plasticizer
(triethylene glycol bis(2-ethylhexanoate)) to an adjacent storm drain that is no longer in use, but was uncovered during planned construction.

At approximately 1:45 p.m. EST on Tuesday, the alarm at the plant signaled an off-site incident. The Chemours Company notified the DEQ at that time, and Kuraray followed up with the DEQ around 3:30 p.m. to the original notification from Chemours. Kuraray’s operations continued to run until approximately 5:00 p.m. in an effort to understand where the release was coming from within the facility.

After a preliminary investigation, it has been determined that less than 30 gallons of 3GO
plasticizer was released. The plasticizer is a chemical used in Kuraray’s PVB film manufacturing process, which makes PVB sheet more pliable when utilized in windshields to enable flexibility to absorb impact. The plasticizer is biodegradable, and according to the safety data sheet, this material does not contain any chemical components with known CAS numbers.

The 3GO plasticizer is not a PFOA or other fluorinated chemical. Kuraray’s operations and construction will not resume until the investigation is complete. Kuraray is working to ensure that there is no risk of an additional chemical escape and will release more information as it becomes available. Kuraray is fully cooperating with the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) and Brunswick County. Clean-up operations are underway.

Chemours released its own statement shortly afterward:

On the afternoon of September 24, 2019, Chemours Fayetteville Works’ monitoring process discovered a non-PFAS substance that had entered the site’s water treatment system, and Chemours operators took immediate action to close the gates to the system outfall. Rapid testing was conducted and data determined that the substance was not a compound related to the Chemours manufacturing operations. Chemours immediately notified the appropriate authorities of the discovery.  

Further investigation determined that the non-PFAS substance originated from Kuraray, a tenant located on the Fayetteville campus. Kuraray has shut down the associated process.  Chemours has been in contact with Kuraray site management to ensure that the issue is corrected before the company resumes operations. 

Chemours is committed to being a leading steward of the environment and operating to the highest standards for safety and emission control. We hold all site tenants and any contractors operating on our campus to the same high standard.

SOUTHEAST N.C. — Thanks to a spill of a substance into the Cape Fear River at the Chemours’ Fayetteville Works industrial site in Bladen County, water utility providers around the region are suspending the withdraw of raw water from the river Wednesday.

According to the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA), the spill came from Kuraray America, an industrial tenant at the Chemours-owned facility.

Don Betz, executive director of Lower Cape Fear Water and Sewer Authority (LCFWASA), emailed the water provider’s board of directors this morning, alerting them of a substance spill upstream. Betz said the authority, which supplies water to Brunswick County, Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, Pender County, and industrial partners will temporarily stop drawing water from the region’s raw water source in Kings Bluff.

“It has been reported by Chemours that a maximum of 200 gallons of 3go-plasticizer made it to the river unofficially. This product is non-miscible in water and it floats. Chemours reported that they quickly employed their emergency response team and ‘damned’ the effluent stream as well as put containment booms in the river to capture what was released. According to Chemours this 3go-plasticizer is considered a non-marine pollutant and has no PFAS associated with it,” Betz wrote in the Wednesday email.

The CFPUA, which also has a separate raw water intake facility located at Kings Bluff, will cease its own withdrawal from the river for six hours Wednesday.

“Out of an abundance of caution, CFPUA has decided to cease withdrawing water from the Lower Cape Fear Water & Sewer Authority intake at Kings Bluff in Bladen County for about six hours, starting about 8 a.m. Wednesday. CFPUA had stopped withdrawing water from its own intake at Kings Bluff late Tuesday,” according to a CFPUA press release.

The contaminants could have already reached the intake location according to CFPUA, which is located about 55 miles from the spill site.

CFPUA’s full storage facilities are full, so customers should not be affected during the estimated six-hour shutdown. Regardless, customers are urged to take steps to conserve, including delaying irrigation or other activities that use significant amounts of water.

The spill happened on Tuesday, according to CFPUA, and while the substance is not named, it is listed as a ‘plasticizer.’

“In conference calls Tuesday and Wednesday, Fayetteville Works Plant Manager Brian Long told CFPUA staff that it is believed that about 30 gallons of a plasticizer leaked from Kuraray Americas, an industrial tenant at the site. Long said the material contained no PFAS. He also said that containment steps had been taken and that the spill had ceased and was no longer entering the Cape Fear River,” according to CFPUA.

Pender County Utilities System Director Anthony Colon said they are planning a short shutdown of their treatment plant at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday morning.

The length of the shutdown will be based on updates from Brunswick County on the severity of the spill, he said, but he urged county residents that what is currently in storage — 2 million gallons of water in-ground tanks — will be enough to prevent a water shortage in the county.

“We can shut down the plant for half the day and still provide water to the public,” Colon said. “The public will never run out of water.”

He also said they will turn on the interconnection with the town of Wallace if necessary.


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