- This is a developing story based on breaking news this morning. It will be updated as more information becomes available.
NC Department of Environmental Quality officials knew the Fayetteville Works plant was importing GenX compounds from a Chemours counterpart in the Netherlands, and spoke to the EPA about the issue on Dec. 13, 2018 — five days before an EPA attorney requested more information from Dutch government officials about Chemours’s practices.
According to an email provided by DEQ, officials within the Division of Waste Management sent the EPA a list of questions about the imported waste, most of which then appeared in the EPA letter.
Above: Notes from DEQ that formed basis of questions posed to the EPA
DEQ knew on Jan. 18, 2018, that the Fayetteville Works plant was importing GenX compounds from overseas, agency officials said. This knowledge was accidental: While DEQ inspectors were onsite conducting a plant visit, a Chemours employee mentioned it. Those inspectors then informed their superiors at the agency.
The imported waste does not affect the proposed consent order, agency officials said. All waste, whether imported or generated onsite, are both covered under the proposed consent order. That order regulates all discharges, regardless of the waste’s origins.
Moreover, DEQ said it could not regulate the import of the waste because of federal regulations. The EPA does not authorize states to administer federal import/export functions for hazardous waste. This approach, according to a 2017 citing in the Federal Register, is to “promote national coordination, uniformity and the expeditious transmission of information between the US and foreign countries.”
According to the DEQ notes to the EPA, the European Union regulates GenX compounds as hazardous waste, but the US does not. That has created concern within DEQ that the exports from the Netherlands could have been intended to circumvent EU law.
It’s still unclear how long the Chemours plant in Dordrecht has been exporting GenX compounds to the Fayetteville Works plant. In 2017, Dordrecht government officials issued discharge permits that reduced by 68 percent the allowable amount of GenX that Chemours could emit in wastewater, according to an article in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology. Presumably, that waste had to go somewhere besides the river.
Concentrations of GenX ranging from 1.7 parts per trillion to 812 ppt had been detected in river water downstream of the plant. One upstream site had a concentration of 22 ppt, which the article authors theorized could have occurred because of tidal currents pushing the contaminants in that direction.