SOUTHEASTERN NORTH CAROLINA (WECT) - The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and Cape Fear River Watch are joining forces to legally request the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to require Chemours to stop all releases of GenX and other chemically-related compounds, known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
Nearly 100,000 pounds per year of airborne GenX and PFAS are released into the atmosphere from the Chemours' Fayetteville Works facility, according to analysis by DEQ cited in the legal paperwork.
"Progress (by the state) has been made, but progress is very slow," said Derb Carter, senior attorney and director of the N.C. Offices of the SELC. "We filed the petition this morning. Under state law, the Department of Environmental Quality has 30 days to make a decision to either issue the declaratory ruling that we're requesting or deny it."
After almost a year of investigation and enforcement by DEQ, the legal action states Chemours continues to release GenX and other PFAS compounds into the air, water, and soil. Now, the conservation groups want DEQ to "immediately order the company to cease all emissions and discharges."
DEQ issued a statement to WECT in response: "DEQ will review SELC's petition thoroughly and make an appropriate decision on their request. It appears SELC's petition is primarily based on the multiple enforcement actions already taken against Chemours by DEQ."
The SELC also mailed Chemours two strongly-worded letters stating it intends to sue in federal court if the company doesn't halt the emissions and discharges within 60 days. Attorneys wrote that Chemours is actively violating the EPA's Clean Water Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act.
"(Chemours) has clearly been violating both those federal environmental laws, so we've notified them that in 60 days – we're required to give this notice – that we will file federal lawsuits to enforce against their violation of those federal laws," said Carter. "They have a legal agreement with EPA to ensure that 99 percent of the GenX that they generate from their process is captured and we believe they have clearly violated that."
In its filing with the state Monday, the SELC argues DEQ has the authority to order Chemours to immediately stop the discharges of toxic compounds because "the company's ongoing contamination of air and water is causing imminent danger to people's health and public safety. DEQ is required by law to act in times of emergency to protect the health and safety of the public."
The toxic chemical GenX has been linked to cancer of the liver, pancreas, and testicles, among other human health impacts, according to the legal filings.
Sources of pollution from Chemours' are now believed to primarily be through the air via stack emissions, but also through stormwater and wastewater conveyance ditches, unlined sedimentation basins, contaminated equipment, and numerous leaks and spills, according to the legal filings.
"The amount of perfluorinated compounds, including GenX, that are going into the atmosphere and then getting precipitated out dwarfs the amount that is actually coming off in terms of the piped wastewater discharge," said Carter
"The hundreds of thousands of people that drink water contaminated by Chemours' toxic discharge are outraged," said Cape Fear Riverkeeper Kemp Burdette. "The state needs to step in and stop this irresponsible company from continuing to harm our health, our water and our air."