DEQ proposes $13 million penalty on Chemours; draft consent order up for public comment

This map and diagram illustrate treatment options for contaminated discharge as part of the proposed consent order. The yellow dots represent sampling locations with GenX concentrations in parts per trillion. The area is located on the southeast side of the Chemours property. (Map: Court documents filed by NC DEQ)

We don’t know what gifts Chemours is grateful for this Thanksgiving (a $275 million profit in the third quarter?) but a penalty imposed by state environmental regulators isn’t one of them.

At 7:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving Eve, the NC Department of Environmental Quality announced a 39-page proposed consent order between the agency and Chemours in which the company would pay $12 million civil penalty, plus $1 million in investigative costs related to GenX contamination from the Fayetteville Works plant. The nonprofit Cape Fear River Watch is a plaintiff/ intervenor in the case.

According to court documents filed in Bladen County, while agreeing to the proposed consent order, Chemours “denies any violation of any law, regulation or permit, including the claims of any such violation made in the Amended Complaint or the NOVs, and has agreed to this Consent Order solely to avoid the expense, burden and uncertainty of litigation and to address community concerns about the Facility.”

The proposed consent order also lists other requirements that must be met, or else the agency can levy additional financial penalties:

Chemours must provide permanent drinking water supplies in the form of either a public waterline connection or whole building filtration system for those with drinking water wells with GenX above 140 parts per trillion “or applicable health advisory.” This language gives the agency latitude in case the health advisory is revised to 110 ppt, as a recent EPA draft report recommends.

  • The company must also provide, install and maintain three under-sink reverse osmosis drinking water systems for well owners with combined PFAS levels above 70 ppt or any individual PFAS compound above 10 ppt. These concentrations reflect EPA recommendations; 10 ppt is also the state’s groundwater standard for otherwise unregulated compounds.
  • Reduce and control air emissions of GenX on the following schedule:
    • By Dec. 31, 2018, complete construction of new emission controls to achieve a 92 percent reduction of facility-wide GenX compound air emissions compared to the 2017 baseline.
    • By Dec. 31, 2019, install a thermal oxidizer to control all PFAS from sources, demonstrate PFAS reductions at an effectiveness of 99.99 percent efficiency and a 99 percent reduction facility-wide for GenX emissions compared to the 2017 baseline/
  • Continue to capture all process wastewater from its operations at the facility for off-site disposal until a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit is issued that authorizes discharge of process wastewater.
  • Conduct health studies to determine potential health risks associated with the release of PFAS compounds into the environment.
  • Sample drinking water wells at least one-quarter mile beyond the closest well that had PFAS levels above 10 ppt, as well as annually retest wells that were previously sampled.
  • Submit and implement a plan for sampling all wastewater and stormwater streams to identify any additional PFAS.
  • Submit to DEQ for approval a Corrective Action Plan that, once approved, is implemented and reduces PFAS contributions in groundwater along the Cape Fear River by at least 75 percent.
  • Notify and coordinate with downstream public water utilities when an event at the facility has the potential to cause a discharge of GenX compounds into the Cape Fear River above the health goal of 140 parts per trillion.

Chemours issued a statement regarding the proposed order:

“This agreement is an example of how industry can work with stakeholders at the local and state level to address these concerns,” said Paul Kirsch, president of Chemours’ fluoroproducts business unit. “We are committed to operating with transparency and a bedrock commitment to a sustainable future. We intend to live up to our commitments with actions not just words.”

Comments on the proposed order will be accepted until Dec. 21. Comments can be submitted electronically to [email protected] or mailed to Assistant Secretary’s office, RE: Chemours Public Comments 1601 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1601.

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