DEQ says Chemours order enough to help Cape Fear region with GenX problem

DEQ says Chemours order enough to help Cape Fear region with GenX problem
DEQ released the proposed consent order on Wednesday, Nov. 21.

SOUTHEASTERN NORTH CAROLINA, NC (WECT) - After announcing a proposed order against Chemours the day before Thanksgiving, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality is asking for public feedback, and looking ahead to the next stage of the process.

The consent order filed on Nov. 21 in Bladen County Superior court requires Chemours to adhere to a host of regulations and monitoring measures as well as provide permanent drinking water supplies to those whose wells tested positive for GenX above the 140 parts per trillion threshold.

Chemours will also have to pay $12 million in civil penalties, and another $1 million in investigation costs.

While the Cape Fear River Watch was involved in drafting the consent order, and those living closest to the Fayetteville Works facility will begin seeing remediation in the next few months, those in the lower Cape Fear region were not so sure.

The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority released a statement two days after the consent order was announced, saying the order does not go far enough to mitigate what their customers have been exposed to, and that the utility was not consulted or included in the drafting of the order.

“While the proposed order addresses Chemours’ ongoing PFAS releases and immediate health concerns for communities in Bladen County in the vicinity of the Fayetteville Works facility, the order does not resolve the problem of PFAS contamination in drinking water supplies for New Hanover County,” the utility’s release said.

During a media conference call Thursday, representatives for DEQ said the measures to reduce the discharge of GenX and other PFAS at the source and the requirement for Chemours to have a corrective action plan to reduce PFAS contributions in groundwater along the Cape Fear will help.

“Obviously, that began with our agency’s suspension of the process wastewater discharge back in November 2017. That requirement was brought into the order," said DEQ Assistant Secretary Sheila Holman. "There’s also requirements to stop PFAs in the groundwater from entering the surface water, and then there’s requirements to study and fill information gaps.

“All of those actions were intended to address concerns in the lower Cape Fear region, and to address the drinking water supplies that are downstream from the facility," Holman added. "We continue to monitor those drinking water systems and the GenX concentrations are well below the 140 parts per trillion.”

Several of the consent order’s references to the level of PFAs in ground and surface water reference the 140 parts per trillion metric, despite the fact the EPA recently recommended a level of 80 parts per trillion.

Holman said DEQ has not taken another look at the recommended level, and because the Department of Health and Human Services had set the level at 140 parts per trillion, it decided to stick with it for the consent order.

The public comment period for the proposed order will be open until Dec. 21.

To submit a response, submit a comment to comments.chemours@ncdenr.gov or mail a response to the assistant secretary’s office, RE: Chemours Public Comments, 1601 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC, 27699.

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