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State regulators fine Chemours $200,000 for treatment system violations

Updated: Mar. 31, 2021 at 5:08 PM EDT
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT) - The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality has fined the Chemours Company nearly $200,000 for previous violations related to failures with two treatment systems at its Fayetteville Works site that filter GenX and other PFAS from water before it enters the Cape Fear River.

Most of the penalties levied by DEQ center around the water treatment system for “Old Outfall 002,″ a stream channel where process wastewater used to be discharged but was later abandoned in 2012. PFAS-contaminated groundwater from Old Outfall 002 still, ultimately, makes its way into the Cape Fear River.

DEQ previously issued Chemours a notice of violation for the treatment system, installed in 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.”

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

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

As as result, DEQ fined Chemours $165,000 for these failures that “necessitated a series of design changes” with Old Outfall 002′s water treatment system. Chemours was also fined over $28,000 for improperly disposing of excavated soil during the construction of the system.

Chemours was also fined $5,000 for “land disturbing activity” that was not approved as part of the construction project for the water treatment system for “Seep C,” one of four seeps that also leak groundwater with high levels of PFAS into the Cape Fear River.

DEQ officials say treatment systems for the additional seep locations will be completed in April.

Chemours has been prohibited from discharging process wastewater at the Fayetteville Works site since 2017.

The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority issued the following statement following DEQ’s announcement:

While we’re pleased to see this, our ongoing PFAS monitoring has yet to demonstrate any significant change in the amount of Chemours’ PFAS in raw water from the Cape Fear River since the measures mentioned by the state began operating. Bottom line: We’re still waiting to see actual results that will benefit our community.

Back in February, CFPUA wrote a letter to state regulators, concerned about the “ineffectiveness of measures Chemours has taken so far to reduce the mass loading of its PFAS into the Cape Fear River.”

In the letter, dated Feb. 3, CFPUA pointed to operational issues Chemours had with the Old Outfall 002 and Seep C water treatment systems and how CFPUA’s monitoring data showed that PFAS levels in the Cape Fear River remained steady since the treatment systems came online last year.

“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.

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.

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