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Saturday, May 18, 2024

CFPUA granted motion to intervene as Chemours challenges discharge permit

CFPUA recently reported non-detectable levels of PFAS from its Sweeney Water Treatment Plant after its granular activated carbon filters came online. The water authority was granted permission to join Chemours’ discharge permit appeal to advocate on behalf of its customers to keep the water clean. (Port City Daily/File)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — The courts ruled in favor of the local water authority to intervene in Chemours’ appeal to challenge a discharge permit that would further restrict how much PFAS it dumps into the Cape Fear River.

On Thursday, a North Carolina administrative law judge granted Cape Fear Public Utility Authority’s motion. Filed Oct. 27, it was submitted by CFPUA to advocate on behalf of its customers who have “borne the costs” of the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant’s installation of granular activated carbon filters to deliver PFAS-free water, CFPUA executive director Kenneth Waldroup said in a press release.

READ MORE: CFPUA takes action as Chemours challenges latest discharge permit

Customers pay around $5 more per month to cover the $49 million upgrade to mitigate water contamination.

CFPUA’s motion stemmed from a September permit issued by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality in regards to Chemours’ own GAC filtration system at its Fayetteville Works site, 70 miles upstream from Wilmington. The system would coincide with a 1-mile barrier wall to capture contaminated groundwater before it enters the river.

NCDEQ amended the permit to require 99.9% reduction of PFAS — up almost 1% from a 2019 consent order between Cape Fear River Watch, NCDEQ and Chemours. It originally required Chemours to capture 99% of the forever chemicals.

On Oct. 14, Chemours said it would not be able to meet the more stringent guidelines and filed an appeal to challenge it.

CFPUA stepped in.

“We filed this motion to have a seat at the table so we can advocate for our community for enforcement of the permit as written,” Waldroup continued in the release. “The more PFAS Chemours sends to the river, the more it costs us — and our customers — to remove the PFAS from treated drinking water.”

Judge Donald van der Vaart, who reviewed the case, studied three documents: CFPUA’s motion, Chemours’ opposition to that motion, and CFPUA’s rebuttal.

“Because Chemours has filed a contested case petition to initiate this administrative challenge of the NPDES Permit that is necessary for the Treatment System to begin
operation and to reduce PFAS loading to the Cape Fear River, PFAS reductions will be delayed and perhaps lessened — depending on the outcome of this litigation, and CFPUA will be harmed as a result,” the motion indicated.

The judge agreed to allow CFPUA to intervene “with all rights of a party to participate fully in [the] contested case,” the release stated.

The local water plant wasn’t the only one to take action. On behalf of local advocacy nonprofit Cape Fear River Watch, the Southern Environmental Law Center filed a motion Thursday to also intervene in Chemours’ appeal.

“In issuing this permit, the Department of Environmental Quality listened to the public, followed the law, and set limits that will keep dangerous PFAS out of the Cape Fear River,” Southern Environmental Law Center senior attorney Geoff Gisler said in a press release. “Cape Fear River Watch seeks to join the state in defending this permit that its members rely on to clean up the river.”

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