DEQ files suit against Chemours, says it will suspend company’s wastewater permit unless demands are met

Lawmakers on the Environmental Review Commission and DEQ officials toured the Sweeney water treatment plant in Wilmington last month before a public hearing on GenX. (Photo: Lisa Sorg)

The NC Department of Environmental Quality and state justice department officials filed a civil complaint against Chemours in Bladen County Court today, asking a judge to force the company to stop discharging all perfluoronated chemicals from its Fayetteville plant into the Cape Fear River.

Attorneys with the NC Department of Justice are representing the state in the case.

DEQ has also begun suspending the company’s wastewater discharge permit for failing to disclose the release of GenX in its effluent. In a strongly worded letter sent today to Chemours, Jay Zimmerman, director of DEQ’s Division of Water Resources, said a review of the discharge permit found “no evidence” indicating the company had told the state it was discharging GenX into the river.

On Aug. 26, 2010, Zimmerman wrote, officials with DuPont met with state environmental officials and assured them that while it would be producing GenX in its manufacturing, it would not be discharging the chemical from the plant. Instead, DuPont maintained GenX would be contained in a “closed loop system.”

DuPont spun off Chemours into a separate company after lawsuits related to discharge of a similar chemical, C8 in West Virginia and Ohio.

DEQ found no evidence that Chemours ever disclosed the GenX discharge until June 2017, when scientific and media reports about the chemical in Wilmington’s drinking water — as well as areas of Brunswick and Pender counties — forced the company’s hand. After DEQ demanded it stop discharging GenX into the river, Chemours finally did so in mid-July.

Nor did Chemours provide health or safety studies about the chemical to state environmental officials until this year — and only at DEQ’s insistence, the letter said.

“DuPont and Chemours’s ongoing misrepresentations and inadequate disclosures … have shielded important information from DEQ and the public,” Zimmerman wrote.

In order to keep its permit, Chemours must stop discharging Nafion byproducts — recently discovered in testing by DEQ and the EPA — by Sept. 8. The company also must cease any release of perfluorinated compounds by Oct. 20, and provide full responses to DEQ’s requests for information. So far, DEQ wrote, the information provided has been incomplete.

Zimmerman was among 19 DEQ officials, including former Assistant Secretary Tom Reeder, who received an email last November from NC State University scientist Detlef Knappe about the presence of GenX in the Cape Fear and treated drinking water. Reeder, who now works for Sen. Phil Berger as a policy advisor, did not relate this information to the new administration. It’s unclear why Division of Water Resources staff did not alert incoming Secretary Michael Regan to the email. Regan has said that he did not about GenX in the Cape Fear until June.

It’s also unclear why lawmakers, who have easy access to Reeder, have not publicly said whether they have met with him, or if so, what information they have gleaned. Reeder has not returned messages from NCPW.

Today’s action by DEQ was prompted in part by a deadline set by lawmakers in House Bill 56. In that legislation, which passed both chambers but has yet to be signed by Gov. Cooper, the legislature gave DEQ until Sept. 8 to issue a notice of violation to Chemours or to provided a detailed report explaining why it had not done so.


60-Day Notice of Intent – Chemours by LisaSorg on Scribd

One Comment

  1. richard manyes

    September 6, 2017 at 5:23 am

    Finally, the Keystone cops at deq have done something – not much I’ll admit, but at least a first step.

    Of course, their hand was forced by, wait for it, not the Cape Fear Riverkeeper, or the SELC, but by the Civitas Institute?? That’s right, the good-government group filed a 60-day notice letter – followed by the Cape Fear water Utility – against Chemours more than a month ago. Had Cooper and his band of incompetents (or worse) not done something, they would have been brushed aside entirely by the Federal courts as Civitas and CFPUA took up the responsibility of enforcing the Clean Water Act.

    Mind you, this “strongly worded” letter and summons does not preclude further action by these third parties – afterall, we have heard strongly worded word-salads from Cooper and his posse before. So before we break out the champagne let’s see if these bumblers go through with this enforcement.

    Remember, Sec Regan pronounced Chemours blameless soon after being told about the discharge, and continued the fiction by issuing a statement saying Chemours had disclosed the discahrge. As everyone whose interest was actually protecting the water quality instead of Chemours stood in disbelief at the statement – which would effectively shield the chemical giant from enforcement – only Civitas took substantive action.

    Cape Fear River Keeper? – not so much. Apparently, they are actually funded to protect the Copper administration.

    Hopefully the US attorney’s office will look into the possible corruption – what else could explain the bizarre behavior by Cooper’s clan?

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