Environment

Extremely high levels of GenX, other perfluorinated compounds within Chemours plant prompt another DEQ warning

Even though state environmental regulators two months ago urged Chemours to “reduce or eliminate” discharges of perfluorinated compounds into the Cape Fear River, test results released by the EPA today still show high levels of those chemicals in the wastewater produced inside the plant.

Although Chemours has stopped discharging these chemicals from some parts of the plant, it continues to discharge them from other manufacturing areas into the Cape Fear River.

According to state sampling conducted on Sept. 18 and analyzed by the EPA, GenX levels ranged from 265 parts per trillion to 8,860 ppt in the wastewater in the Fayetteville Works plant. It is not used for drinking, but Chemours does discharge it into the Cape Fear River, a drinking water supply for public utilities downstream.

The state health department has set a provisional health goal for drinking water of 140 ppt. Since July, when Chemours stemmed some of its discharge, drinking water coming from public utilities downstream has tested below that threshold.

Meanwhile, in the most recent round of testing, other perfluorinated compounds associated with the manufacture of Nafion ranged from non-detect to 34,800 parts per trillion.

Wastewater discharges of these compounds at this concentration are occurring is despite a letter sent Aug. 29 from state environmental officials to Chemours  urging the company to “explore any and all options to reduce or eliminate the release of these chemicals” until the state can review their toxicology and evaluate potential health effects.

It is unclear why NC Department of Environmental Quality continues to find releases of contaminants in various parts of the plant, when the agency has repeatedly asked the company to halt its discharge.

The August letter was prompted by a preliminary analysis conducted by the EPA in Research Triangle Park indicating that concentrations of two compounds — PFESAs or Nafion byproducts, for short — had not decreased since Chemours reportedly stopped discharging GenX into the Cape Fear River in July.

Based on the today’s findings, DEQ ordered Chemours to capture and divert the industrial process wastewater from all manufacturing areas so the wastewater can be taken out of state for incineration. Chemours will continue to capture and remove GenX from other areas inside the facility as it had been doing at DEQ’s request since last summer, the agency said.

These findings arrived shortly after DEQ said it would not suspend Chemours’ wastewater discharge permit; however, that permit is up for review, and the recent test results will likely factor into the terms of a renewal.

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