NC attorney general sues DuPont, Chemours over PFAS contamination

Stein’s office filed a complaint Tuesday against DuPont, Chemours and other connected companies on behalf of the people of NC
Updated: Oct. 13, 2020 at 5:48 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Another lawsuit has been filed against DuPont and Chemours over the discharge of Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from the Fayetteville Works plant — this time by North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein.

Stein’s office filed a complaint Tuesday in Cumberland County Superior Court against DuPont, Chemours and other connected companies on behalf of the people of North Carolina, “to hold them accountable for the damage their manufacture, use, and disposal of PFAS chemicals have caused to North Carolina’s natural resources," a press release states.

The new civil complaint comes after the companies' consent order with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality was modified in a separate case, where the state agency required the companies to cease discharge of chemicals like GenX, and mitigate further contamination in the air and water surrounding the plant.

Stein said while the consent order helps, his office decided to take matters a step further.

“What I’m concerned about is the damage of these chemicals, these forever chemicals, not only in the Cape Fear there [in Fayetteville], but the Cape Fear as it flows to the ocean,” Stein said in an interview Tuesday. "I believe that DuPont needs to be held accountable. Because I allege that DuPont has been discharging or admitting these chemicals for decades, that they’ve known these chemicals are dangerous. "

The lawsuit goes beyond the discharge of the chemicals, however, alleging that DuPont offloaded its assets away from Chemours, which is a spin-off of the company, in order to shield money from any possible litigation.

“We assert that they engaged in a series of complex corporate transactions, to suck out the money from the plant, and put it in other companies to shield them from our claims,” Stein said. “And so I’m asking the courts to make DuPont pay, and to undo those corporate transactions, putting those assets into a trust, where they can go to reimburse North Carolina for the damage we’ve suffered.”

In response to a request for comment from WECT, a spokesperson for DuPont sent the following statement:

"DuPont de Nemours has not heard from Attorney General Stein. That said, such action would be disappointing and without merit. DuPont has never made, used or sold PFOA, GenX or any other perfluorinated compounds in Fayetteville. We look forward to vigorously defending our position in this matter.”

DuPont and Chemours have been embroiled in a legal battle themselves over the distribution of assets and liabilities after the two separated a few years back.

Chemours also responded to inquiries with a statement:

“We are currently reviewing the filing in detail. Chemours has operated as an independent company since July 1, 2015. Since that time, Chemours has taken definitive action to address active emissions and historic deposition at our Fayetteville site, and continues to do so. Chemours has cooperated with the State of North Carolina to address PFAS concerns, and has agreed to a court approved Consent Order and its addendum, which was entered by the court yesterday. Our investment in emissions control technology has significantly decreased GenX emissions by 99% and our thermal oxidizer continues to destroy PFAS with greater than 99.99% efficiency. We continue to decrease PFAS loading to the Cape Fear River and began operation on September 30, 2020 of a capture and treatment system for one pathway at the site. Under the CO Addendum, Chemours will take a number of measures to address PFAS loadings from other pathways, including onsite groundwater to the Cape Fear River.”

Stein’s office began looking more closely at the PFAS issue in August, he said. Along with the civil action filed Tuesday, Stein said there could be further legal action coming.

“I launched a statewide investigation of these chemicals to find out where they are, who put them into the environment, so that they can pay for the damage they’ve caused,” he said, “and this is the first of possibly a number of actions.”

Officials with the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority said that while they have not had an opportunity to study Stein’s lawsuit, the utility “applauds continued, diligent efforts by the State to hold Chemours and DuPont responsible for their decades of PFAS releases while operating profitably at the Fayetteville Works industrial site.”

Separate from the state, CFPUA has filed a civil lawsuit against Chemours and DuPont to recover costs associated with $43 million in granular activated carbon filter upgrades currently under construction at its Sweeney Water Treatment Plant.

Stein said his office’s lawsuit would have no affect on the civil suit filed by CFPUA.

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