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N.C. DEQ finds Chemours responsible for contamination of New Hanover County wells

Published: Nov. 3, 2021 at 12:44 PM EDT
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT) - The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality is expanding actions it is requiring for Chemours after it determined the company is responsible for contamination of groundwater monitoring wells and water supply wells in New Hanover County and potentially Pender, Columbus, and Brunswick counties.

According to a news release Wednesday, Chemours must assess the extent of contamination in downstream communities to include well sampling and provision of replacement drinking water supplies.

“The contamination from Chemours extends down the Cape Fear River into multiple communities and Chemours’ actions to address that contamination must reach those communities as well,” said DEQ Secretary Elizabeth S. Biser. “DEQ will continue to take the necessary steps to provide relief to affected North Carolinians as the science and regulations require.”

Chemours now is required to expand the off-site assessment required under the 2019 Consent Order to determine the extent of the contamination. The company also is ordered to conduct sampling of private drinking water wells to identify residents who may be eligible for replacement drinking water supplies.

“Chemours also is required to review existing well sampling in communities surrounding the Fayetteville Works facility to determine additional eligibility for whole house filtration and public water, in light of the revised Toxicity Assessment for GenX from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),” the news release states. “Chemours has been advised that EPA will be releasing a federal drinking water health advisory level for GenX in the coming months. In Paragraph 19, the 2019 Consent Order requires Chemours to provide replacement permanent drinking water to private wells with ‘detections of GenX compounds in exceedance of 140 ng/L, or any applicable health advisory, whichever is lower.’

“In advance of a likely EPA health advisory level below 140 ng/l, DEQ is requiring Chemours to review existing well sampling data to identify residents who would be entitled to public water or whole house filtration under a revised health advisory level. Chemours must revise the assessment of public water feasibility for all affected residents under a lower health advisory level. DEQ is also requiring Chemours to develop a plan to transition residents who have previously received reverse osmosis systems based on GenX results to either public water or whole house filtrations systems as appropriate under a lower GenX health advisory level.”

Officials with New Hanover County and the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority welcomed Wednesday’s decision by the DEQ:

“I want to thank DEQ and Secretary Biser for taking these steps to require action from Chemours so they take responsibility for the PFAS contamination they have caused in our community. It is important for our residents to be provided with the same protections as those who are close to the Chemours plant, and that means testing and monitoring the groundwater wells in our county and providing bottled water and then a permanent filtration or connection to a public water supply if elevated PFAS are detected. New Hanover County has advocated to be included in the Consent Order, and today’s actions are a positive step towards that. We will continue to do all we can to support DEQ’s efforts and ensure our residents have access to safe drinking water.” - New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chair Julia Olson-Boseman

“The announcement by [DEQ] Secretary [Elizabeth S.] Biser is welcome news for our community. The PFAS in our community’s groundwater is there because Chemours and its predecessor DuPont released it into the Cape Fear River and the air over multiple decades of profitable operations upriver from our community. As a result of Wednesday’s announcement, Chemours can no longer ignore its responsibilities to the residents of New Hanover County.” - Kenneth Waldroup, CFPUA executive director.

In response to the NCDEQ’s announcement, Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo released this statement:

“In today’s announcement, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) has once again demonstrated that Chemours and its operations along the Cape Fear River have inflicted continuing harm on our region’s natural environment. As the NCDEQ takes steps to hold Chemours accountable, I hope and expect that Chemours will fully abide by the Consent Order.

The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority has taken actions over the past several years to enhance filtration at its water treatment plants, which provides residents served by the utility with safe water to drink. City Council will continue to advocate and work within its ability to ensure clean and safe water for our residents and our region.”

WECT reached out to Chemours for comment and the following statement was released:

Chemours is a part of the solution to addressing PFAS contamination in North Carolina, and we will continue working with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ), as we have been for several years, to move forward with efforts to address PFAS found in the environment related to our Fayetteville Works manufacturing site. We have worked closely with NCDEQ on implementation of on-site and off-site programs, including a private well sampling program, as part of the consent order agreement between Chemours, Cape Fear River Watch and the state of North Carolina.

Copies of the notifications to Chemours can be found here.

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