North Carolina politicians question EPA on approval of GenX waste imported to Chemours

North Carolina politicians question EPA on approval of GenX waste imported to Chemours
Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 10:42 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - North Carolina Congress members are questioning the Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of four million pounds of GenX waste being imported to the Chemours Fayetteville Works Plant.

The agency paused the approval last week.

In a statement, the EPA said “In response to recent concerns expressed by stakeholders including the state of North Carolina and Brunswick County, EPA reached out to Chemours requesting a pause on import of non-hazardous waste from the Netherlands to its Fayetteville, North Carolina facility. EPA takes these concerns seriously and will review the notices that the company has provided to ensure the public remains safe. EPA has been informed that no shipments have taken place in 2023 and none are currently enroute from the Netherlands to North Carolina.”

Senator Thom Tillis, Representative David Rouzer and Representative Richard Hudson wrote a letter asking the head of the EPA six questions, giving him until the end of November to respond.

The six questions are the following:

  • Since its creation in 2005, how many import shipments of GenX waste has the EPA approved and at what levels?
  • What quantity of imported GenX waste material does the EPA consider permissible and how are these levels determined?
  • Did the EPA consider the impacts of the recycling and recovery process Chemours is conducting with the GenX waste prior to providing consent?
  • Given the NCDEQ Consent agreement with Chemours, has EPA modified their process for allowing imports of GenX waste?
  • Given the aforementioned EPA action on GenX, has EPA modified their process for approving imports of GenX waste?
  • What efforts has your agency taken to support the State of North Carolina in mitigating the presence of GenX beyond the mandates of the Consent Agreement?

The current head of the EPA is Michael Regan, who used to be the secretary of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality.

“I did support the EPA director Michael’s nomination,” Tillis said. “He had a great reputation back in the state – this could be a miss. I mean he is the head of the EPA. It could be that he’s not intimately involved in this. You’d think somebody who’s in the decision loop would remember he’s from North Carolina and he’s done a lot of work on this area.”

Tillis says he mostly wants to know why the EPA is pausing the approval, but one advocacy group says they need to rescind the approval altogether.

“I don’t know if in this review we’re talking about chemical science or political science. The most fundamental question is what’s changed?” Tillis said. “A lot of it has to do with concern. Concern with the decision to begin with and then a lack of communication ahead of time.”

The purpose of the letter, according to Tillis, is to improve the EPA’s communication in the long term, but he does not believe the pause on the approval will become a total reversal.

“We’ve got to do better in the future. And we’ve got a lot of work to do to communicate what exactly led to this approval,” Tillis said. “It sounds like to me a decision’s been made. I doubt seriously there’s going to be any reversal in the decision.”

Executive Director Dana Sargent of Cape Fear River Watch says the EPA is going back on its word.

“This is PFAS entering the environment, this goes against everything the EPA has said they’re committing to doing,” Sargent said. “Those questions were polite and I appreciate that they sent the letter, but the EPA just needs to say ‘You know what, we messed up, we’re not going to allow this.’”