WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - New Hanover County Commissioner Woody White is asking fellow board members to join ranks and oppose the proposed consent order between the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, Chemours and Cape Fear River Watch over the company’s discharge of GenX and other chemicals into the drinking water supply.
The order, which must be approved by a judge in Bladen County where Chemours’ Fayetteville Works Plant is located, forces the company to pay $12 million in fines, provide permanent drinking water to neighbors whose wells tested above the state’s health goal for GenX, and follow other mandates.
White sent an email to fellow commissioners requesting New Hanover County Manager Chris Coudriet bring a resolution to the board opposing the consent order.
Following is a portion of White’s email, listing the reasons for his request:
“It is probably too little too late, as I believe the Judge will approve this proposal, but in my view, NH County should join forces with CFPUA in opposing the agreement, for many reasons, including:
> in the agreement, Chemours does not admit any liability, or regulatory violation. This is unacceptable on many fronts, but at a minimum, because it likely has an adverse impact of the CFPUA's legal claims. I do not know if that is the case, but on its face, it appears as such.
> It appears to substitute some compliance oversight to a non-profit organization, who will likely benefit in their fundraising from this (a potential built-in conflict of interest), as opposed to DEQ.
> It clearly benefits Bladen County residents, by providing, inter alia, drinking water for those ground-water wells affected, but has no equal protections of our 220,000+ people, downstream.
> the proposed agreement solicited NO input from New Hanover County, the City of Wilmington, or the CFPUA, except through this "public comment" process. When the Secretary of DEQ came here to discuss this last week, he did not bother to invite county or utility members to ask him questions about this.
> It allows Chemours to pay $12 million as a civil penalty via the Civil Penalty Assessment fund, but I believe it could have foregone this pass-through, invited CFPUA to be party to the negotiations (alas, Cape Fear River Watch is allowed to intervene in the suit - why not CFPUA?) and allowed the money to offset the cost of the new filtration system CFPUA is paying for.
> AND MOST NOTABLY; it does not address in any way, the admission it made to us on June 15, 2017, of the 37 years worth of discharges into the cape fear river. There is no mention of this fact, no relation of the known predecessor, C8, what if any, C8 was discharged, etc.
> SECOND MOST NOTABLY: it allows Chemours to avoid future punishment for past actions, despite PFAS' continued presence in the river.
> THIRD MOST NOTABLY: it is a formal codification of the state regulatory agency, treating drinking water in one part of the state (well water) different than in another part - here. And with different levels of contamination. This is unacceptable.”
When asked if they support White’s request that the Board of Commissioners oppose the consent order, Chairman Jonathan Barfield and commissioners Julia Boseman and Pat Kusek all agreed.
Commissioner Rob Zapple said he is not ready to oppose the draft consent order. Instead, Zapple says he would support the county submitting “full and robust comments to the judge that will address the downstream issues we are facing in the county." Zapple said he would be open to opposing the agreement later in the process if the county’s comments are not successful.
“The people of this county deserve water they can drink,” Boseman said in a text response. “(The order) does nothing to help pay for a filtration system at CFPUA that is needed because of Chemours.”