Saturday, October 1, 2022

Chemours to ramp up PFA production at Fayetteville Works site, claims emissions will not increase

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — A chemical company facing litigation with the EPA, community organizations and even municipalities over its emissions of PFAS into the air, soil and water announced plans to increase production Tuesday.

Chemours, a successor of DuPont, is the only American producer of PFA fluoropolymer, a long-lasting man-made chemical that doesn’t break down in the environment. Located 77 miles west of Wilmington, its Fayetteville Works Plant will expand facilities for domestic production of semiconductors, created with Teflon fluoropolymers — a perfluorinated compound, or PFA.

Semiconductors have been in short supply globally over the last few years, worsened by the pandemic. The microchips are integral to everyday uses, included in cars, cellphones, and computers, as well as military aircraft, defense systems, electric grids and healthcare equipment.

In July, Congress passed the CHIPS Act of 2022 to strengthen the domestic chip supply chain; U.S. production has declined from 37% in 1990 to 12% in 2022. The act will invest $52 billion in manufacturing and research grants. 

It also established a 25% investment tax credit to incentivize semiconductor manufacturing in the U.S. in order to lessen dependency on foreign producers, such as China, which makes up 53% of the semiconductor market.

“This state is already attracting a significant number of businesses in the industries we support,” Dawn Hughes, Fayetteville Works Plant Manager, said in a press release. “Chemours’ Fayetteville Works products are critical to their supply chains.”

The amplification of Chemours’ output extends beyond semiconductors. It will envelop the creation of materials to support transportation and clean energy industries as well. 

The company noted in its release Chemours will be the only manufacturer stateside that specializes in “ionomer membranes used in water electrolysis for the production of green (renewable) hydrogen.” It emits zero emissions and produces “green fuel to power industry and transportation,” the release explained.

The production swell comes on the heels of the signing of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. $369 billion is going toward climate-change initiatives, such as incentivizing or offering tax credits to the creation of renewable energy, accelerating electric vehicle (EV) technologies, and improving energy efficiency of buildings and communities.

Chemours said in its release that its facility’s growth in both areas will not increase emissions. The company would not specify in a followup question its design plans or procedures in place to protect against any erroneous discharge from its new development.

A spokesperson for the chemical company said it would address all concerns with the public during two information sessions later this month. 

Many attendees will be residents negatively impacted by its manufacturing throughout the years. Over four decades, PFAS were found flowing downstream in the Cape Fear River from the Fayetteville Works Facility; the public wasn’t informed of its toxic dumping until 2017.

Studies have linked the accumulation of PFAS in humans to adverse health effects, such as higher cholesterol, birth defects, and cancer.

Over the last five years, Chemours said it has reduced fluorinated organic compounds by more than 99%, while PFAS in the Cape Fear have fallen by 97%.

Community members, nonprofits and local governments have been working to hold the company accountable. State and federal agencies have been revising policies and advisories in response to the impact any discharged chemicals has on communities.

A week ago the EPA announced plans to regulate PFAS under a Superfund law. It designated PFOA and PFOS — two PFAS out of 12,000 or more — as hazardous waste.

Chemours will host public sessions on Sept. 20, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., at the Bladen Community College Auditorium (7418 NC Hwy 41W) and on Sept. 21, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., at Leland Cultural Arts Center (1212 Magnolia Village Way).

Catch up on previous reporting regarding Chemours here.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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