Monday, April 15, 2024

‘None are enroute’: Import of GenX shipments delayed until at least first of December

The North Carolina General Assembly will consider a bill that requests further research and legal liability of GenX and other emerging contaminants. (Port City Daily /FILE PHOTO)
The EPA asked Chemours to pause GenX shipments until at least Dec. 1, 2023 after receiving multiple letters from Brunswick and New Hanover County officials, as well as North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper. Chemours complied until Dec. 1. (Port City Daily/File)

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — After it was reported last month that Chemours received the go-ahead from the Environmental Protection Agency to import GenX from its plant in the Netherlands to the Fayetteville Works facility for recycling purposes, the company has now agreed to a delay.

READ MORE: EPA authorizes 4M pounds of GenX to be imported to NC from overseas

The EPA asked Chemours to pause GenX shipments until at least Dec. 1, 2023 after receiving multiple letters from Brunswick and New Hanover County officials, as well as North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper. The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality stated it was unaware of the EPA’s approval — its administrator, Michael Regan, is formerly NCDEQ’s secretary before being appointed to the federal agency position by President Biden in 2021.

NCDEQ expressed concerns and called the import a “significant setback” to what’s been put in place to protect citizens against PFAS exposure in the Cape Fear River. Chemours, a spinoff of DuPont, had been dumping toxic pollutants into the river for decades, which was discovered six years ago.

Chemours has agreed to pause any shipments of HFPO-DA — commonly referred to as GenX. Though, according to the EPA, there have yet been any sent to North Carolina in 2023.

“None are currently enroute” either, according to an EPA spokesperson. 

The federal agency originally signed off on Chemours to bring in more than 4 million pounds of GenX through Sept. 7, 2024. It included the chemical being ferried through the Port of Wilmington to Chemours’ Fayetteville Works facility in as many as 100 shipments.

A company representative told Port City Daily last month it likely would be lower amounts “than received historically” but declined to answer how much is normally imported. After the 2024 deadline, the EPA will have to review a separate request for Chemours to continue shipping in the chemical waste.

EPA stopped shipments from coming into North Carolina in 2018 due to outdated data, which Chemours updated for reauthorization recently.

A Dutch report indicated between 2014 and 2018, up to 22 tons of GenX was being transported over, but it spiked to 116 tons after the closure of Chemours’ facility in Italy.

Chemours sought approval this year to ship the chemical to recycle or reuse for the manufacturing of fluoropolymers, used in semiconductor and electric vehicle production. The request came as the company undergoes litigation in the Netherlands.

Criminal Dutch attorney Bénédicte Ficq filed a class-action suit in September against DuPoint and Chemours for causing decades of pollution at its plant south of Rotterdam. It alleges the companies’ executives knowingly caused decades of PFAS pollution.

The health ramifications of long-term exposure to PFAS, including GenX, continue to be studied, though adverse health effects — including impaired thyroid function, increased cholesterol levels, decreased immune system response and increased risk to certain cancers, including testicular and kidney — have been linked.

Sept. 27 the Rotterdam district court ruled Chemours is liable for environmental damage in four towns: Dordrecht, Sliedrecht, Papendrech and Molenlanden, according to Reuters.

The EPA agreed to allow GenX to be shipped into North Carolina, as it’s not considered a hazardous waste, according to the Resource Conservation Recovery Act. Since there are no federal regulations on GenX, the EPA legally had to allow the request to go through.

Brunswick County Commissioner Chair Randy Thompson wrote to the EPA he and his colleagues were against the move. He said the chemicals are still showing a presence in area waters, despite Chemours’ installation of a barrier wall over the summer. It’s intended to capture runoff to prevent pollution from reaching the Cape Fear River, which is a main source of treated drinking water in the area.

Thompson also wrote in the letter that weekly PFAS tests performed at the Northwest Water Treatment Plant have a prevalence of PFAS compounds. Insufficient time has passed to ensure Chemours’ barrier wall is effective, he suggested.

PFAS have also seeped into groundwater and air emissions, which the governor pointed out in his correspondence to the EPA.

“It is unacceptable for North Carolinians to bear the risks associated with importing millions of pounds of GenX from other countries for disposal in our air, land and water,” he said.

New Hanover County commissioners agreed.

“The company has done little to voluntarily address its long-term pollution without direct action by New Hanover County, the City of Wilmington, Cape Fear River Watch and NCDEQ,” commissioners’ wrote to the EPA last week.

ALSO: Governor, NHC join list of officials urging EPA to reconsider import of GenX

The EPA spokesperson informed Port City Daily the agency “takes these concerns seriously.” It noted it will review all notices Chemours provided to inform its decision to re-allow shipments and ensure safe measures are in place for citizens.

“We will continue to work in close partnership with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, as well as maintain a constructive dialogue with the company, to protect nearby communities from any potential exposure to the PFAS known as GenX,” the EPA spokesperson said.

In March, the EPA announced it’s pushing for the first-ever national drinking water standards, legally enforceable regulations, for six PFAS. The federal agency also launched a PFAS Strategic Roadmap two years ago to outline actions for protecting human and environmental health from the toxic forever chemicals. It provided $10 billion to address PFAS and other emerging contaminants under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Port City Daily reached out to Chemours about the pause of shipments but did not receive a response by press.

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Shea Carver
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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