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NC groups reactivate lawsuit against EPA to hold Chemours accountable

Chemours has been found to be largely responsible for polluting the Cape Fear River with the forever chemical known as GenX
Published: Jan. 27, 2022 at 11:35 AM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A coalition of North Carolina groups has reactivated its lawsuit against the EPA for the agency’s failure to require Chemours to conduct studies on polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly known as PFAS.

Chemours has been found to be largely responsible for polluting the Cape Fear River with the forever chemical known as GenX.

Last month, the EPA granted the coalition’s petition in part, but only included limited testing of seven of 54 PFAS which were supposed to be tested.

This means there would be no required epidemiological study of communities affected by PFAS and no testing on PFAS mixtures in drinking water and people’s blood.

“As the director of an environmental nonprofit who believed in and trusted the folks of this EPA to do the right thing, I am furious with EPA’s failure to act; as a poisoned community member who is also grieving the loss of a firefighter brother whose cancer could be explained by this data, I am heartbroken,” said Dana Sargent, executive director of Cape Fear River Watch. “We are turning to the courts because EPA has failed us.”

Leaders of the groups involved in the lawsuit say the tests mentioned are necessary to learn about the health effects of PFAS for those who are already sick and those who may become ill in the future.

“We are an exposed community that has that level of statistical power to really unlock that information and it would be a huge disservice to public health and to our community to deny that.” said Emily Donovan, co-founder of Clean Cape Fear.

The groups have petitioned the EPA to take action twice. The first petition was denied under the Trump administration. When EPA administrator Michael Regan took over last year under the Biden administration, the groups asked the EPA to reconsider the petition. That eventually lead to last month’s decision.

“I am really upset, personally upset, that somehow, something happened in the EPA that made them decide that it was not a good decision to make Chemours pay for health studies on the toxic chemicals that they’ve put into our environment,” said Sargent. “They didn’t provide us with any valid reason why not.”

Group leaders say they are surprised by what they say is the EPA’s “inaction” under it’s current administrator. Regan worked on the PFAS issue as the head of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality.

“It was very shocking and really gut-wrenching to see that his administration chose to do nothing, knowing what he knows about the struggles we’ve gone through,” said Donovan.

The groups bringing the petition are the Center for Environmental Health, Cape Fear River Watch, Clean Cape Fear, Democracy Green, the NC Black Alliance, and Toxic Free NC. The petition received several letters of support, including one signed by more than 120 organizations, one signed by Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo and NHC Commission Chair Julia Olson-Boseman, and another signed by dozens of scientists, professors and researchers.

You can read the case below:

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