Gov. Cooper, New Hanover Co. commissioners send letters to EPA over PFAS concerns

Gov. Cooper asks EPA to block Chemours from importing waste material containing GenX
Published: Nov. 7, 2023 at 2:58 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 8, 2023 at 10:03 AM EST
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT) - Gov. Roy Cooper sent a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan urging the EPA to reverse its decision to allow the import of waste material containing GenX to the Chemours facility in North Carolina.

“North Carolina has been at the forefront of PFAS issues for the past seven years and worked relentlessly to mitigate the health risks posed by these chemicals,” said Gov. Cooper. “It is unacceptable for North Carolinians to bear the risks associated with importing millions of pounds of GenX from other countries for disposal in our air, land and water. Under the Biden Administration, the EPA has been a vital partner in our efforts to learn more about these chemicals and protect the health of our communities and we will continue to encourage them to take action.”

The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners also submitted a letter to Regan, requesting “increased EPA oversight to ensure community water safety,” according to a release from the county.

“As part of the request, Commissioners highlighted the significant investments made by the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority to address water contamination and the necessity of continued vigilance in monitoring Chemours’ activities,” the announcement continues. “The letter cites the NCDEQ Consent Order, which mandates testing and remediation efforts by Chemours, as a positive step but emphasizes the need for further action in light of the proposed GenX importation.

“Commissioners are seeking assurance from the EPA that adequate controls will be implemented by Chemours to prevent additional negative environmental impacts on the region. The Commissioners’ request aims to ensure that Chemours operates with the highest safety standards to protect the local watershed and environment.”

NC Newsline posted this report saying the EPA approved more than four million pounds of GenX waste from a Chemours facility in the Netherlands being sent to the Chemours Fayetteville Works plant in Bladen County.

Those imports stopped a few years ago because the EPA wanted more up-to-date information about the waste being shipped to the U.S.

According to the EPA documents, imports started on Sept. 8, 2023, and could continue through early September 2024.

Documents also show that the purpose of this movement in chemical waste is so the Bladen County facility can recycle the waste, but it’s not clear how that process will work and if there will be any impacts on the environment.

A Chemours spokesperson provided the following statement last month:

“Chemours’ Fayetteville Works site receives recovered HFPO-DA from our Dordrecht Works facility for recycling, after which it is reused in the manufacturing processes to produce essential fluoropolymers for use in applications like semiconductor and electric vehicle production. Reclaiming and recycling HFPO-DA is an important circularity activity that helps reduce the need to manufacture larger volumes of new, virgin HFPO-DA. Chemours works closely with EPA and other authorities who regularly review and approve the permits required to perform this activity. This process is not new to Chemours or Fayetteville Works as evidenced by several media reports on the matter dating back to at least 2019.

“The volumes contained in the permits issued in The Netherlands provide maximum allowable levels authorized for transport. We anticipate that actual volumes of compound received for recycling will be far lower, closer to amounts received historically. Chemours’ Fayetteville Works has emissions control technologies in place to abate emissions of fluorinated compounds in accordance with our operating permits and levels contained in the Consent Order agreement with NC DEQ and Cape Fear River Watch.”

An EPA spokesperson provided this statement last month:

“EPA carefully reviews proposed imports of waste from other countries for disposal or recycling in the United States for compliance with U.S. laws and regulations consistent with the January 8, 2020, EPA memo. In reviewing the latest consent request from Inspectie Leefomgeving en Transport or “ILT” (the competent authority for the Netherlands), EPA looked at the Fayetteville Works facility’s operational capacity and status. There is no prohibition under federal or state regulations on the Chemours Fayetteville Works facility receiving RCRA nonhazardous GenX wastewater for recovery processing from offsite sources. EPA therefore did not have a basis under U.S. laws and regulations to object to the import. EPA’s September 2023 conditional consent requires the following: (1) only nonhazardous GenX wastewater be shipped to the Chemours Fayetteville Works facility, (2) only GenX wastewater with recoverable amounts of GenX be shipped to the Chemours Fayetteville Works facility, and (3) no more than 2,000 metric tons over the two separate consents be shipped to the Chemours facility over the 12-month consent period.

“The building at the Chemours Fayetteville Works facility where GenX is recovered from imported wastewater is subject to federal and state consent orders requiring strict water discharge and air emissions limitations to protect workers, surrounding and downstream communities, and the environment. These include a 2009 EPA Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 5(e) consent order and NCDEQ’s 2019 facility-wide consent order (and associated 2020 addendum).

“All recycling residuals from the GenX recovery process at the Chemours Fayetteville Works facility – though not classified as hazardous waste – are sent to a hazardous waste disposal facility in Texas. EPA inspected the Fayetteville Works facility in June of 2017 and found that the facility was adequately controlling effluent and emissions at the building where GenX is recovered from imported wastewater in accordance with the 2009 TSCA Section 5(e) consent order. EPA continues to support NCDEQ as they monitor and enforce the requirements of the 2019 consent order.”