CFPUA writes letter to state regulators over ‘apparent ineffectiveness’ of Chemours to reduce ‘mass loading’ of PFAS in Cape Fear River

Chemours not delivering its promise to remove PFAS
Updated: Feb. 9, 2021 at 3:49 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - In a letter to state regulators, CFPUA expressed its concerns about the “ineffectiveness of measures Chemours has taken so far to reduce the mass loading of its PFAS into the Cape Fear River.”

The letter, dated Feb. 3, pointed to operational issues Chemours had with the water treatment systems located at “Old Outfall 002″ and “Seep C” on the site of the company’s Fayetteville Works plant near the Bladen-Cumberland County border.

RELATED: N.C. regulators issue notice of violation to Chemours.

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) previously issued Chemours a notice of violation for the Old Outfall 002 treatment system installed Sept. 2020 that state regulators said “was not properly designed to meet the requirements of the Consent Order to capture dry weather flow” to treat and remove 99 percent of GenX and PFMOAA.

Additionally, DEQ stated in the violation notice that a “design failure” with the treatment system prevented it from “properly managing sediment load” due to erosion from heavy rain events. The sediment load on the system resulted in “multiple days where the system failed to capture dry weather flow and periods where the system was completely shut down.”

As of Dec. 18, 2020, DEQ officials say the treatment system is working as intended and removing the PFAS from water before it reaches the Cape Fear River.

CFPUA’s letter to the DEQ also mentions three occasions where a Chemours official emailed state regulators about high river levels that impaired the treatment system for Seep C, one of four seeps that leak groundwater with high levels of PFAS into the river, and rendered the system non-functional.

“These operational failures lead us to wonder how Chemours could have neglected to adequately account for the effects that heavy rains and higher than normal river levels might have on the seep treatment,” stated Jim Flechtner, executive director of CFPUA, in the letter to the state.” After all, Chemours and DuPont have operated in this location for almost a half-century, during which they surely would have experienced heavy rains and rising water on numerous occasions.”

CFPUA stated in the letter that Chemours’ own data indicated that Old Outfall 002 and the four seeps are responsible for 75 percent of the mass loading of PFAS into the Cape Fear River.

“Our analysis of data from our own monitoring of PFAS in raw water point to failure of measures at Old Outfall 002 and Seep C to reduce PFAS mass loading in any meaningful way,” the letter stated.

“Our own analysis has not shown a meaningful decrease in the amount of PFAS in the river since this treatment was first installed last fall,” said Director of Communications for CFPUA Vaughn Hagerty. “So, we have asked DEC, essentially, when that is going to change, what is going to change, to make sure this PFAS does start to decrease, and when that’s going to happen.”

The utility’s data showed that mass loading rate of PFAS in the Cape Fear River has remained steady since Oct. 1, 2020, when the treatment system at Old Outfall 022 came online, and shows that PFMOAA levels actually increased during that same time.

“Our customers continue to be affected by Chemours’ PFAS. We were assured that the measures outlined in the Paragraph 12 Addendum would significantly and expeditiously reduce mass loading of Chemours’ PFAS in the Cape Fear River. From what we can see using our own data through mid-January, Chemours does not appear to be consistently delivering on the Addendum’s promises,” the letter concluded.

CFPUA says work on eight, new granular activated carbon filters at its Sweeney Water Treatment Plant continues and the $43 million project is expected to be completed in early 2022.

“We already have an interim treatment in place at the Sweeney Water Treatment plant that is providing some reduction in PFAS from the river,” said Hagerty. “We’re in the final year of construction for the new GAC filters at Sweeney that are going to effectively reduce the PFAC.”

A spokesperson for Chemours provided the following statement when reached for comment:

“The system installed to capture and treat water from the stream referred to as Old Outfall 002 began operation in October 2020, and has experienced unordinary stresses, including excessive solids, since that time due to above average rainfall.  Chemours has already incorporated additional mitigation measures as a result of our learnings, and we are moving forward with treatment of the 002 stream, as well as addressing PFAS loading to the Cape Fear River, as approved by the state as part of our Consent Order and Consent Order Addendum.  Chemours continues to demonstrate a commitment to environmental stewardship that is significant and meaningful through the man actions we have already taken to control PFAS emissions at our Fayetteville site.  We are not aware of any other company in our industry or other industries who has taken the steps we have taken.”

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