Chemical spill into Cape Fear River prompts utilities to stop water withdrawals

This post has been updated with a statement from Chemours.

State environmental regulators on Tuesday discovered an unknown quantity of  chemical “plasticizers”had spilled into the Cape Fear River from the Kuraray Americas plant in Bladen County, the NC Department of Environmental Quality has announced. However, the plasticizer, used to increase the plasticity or fluidity of a material, does not contain perfluorinated compounds — PFAS.

The Kuraray plant is on the same property as Chemours, which is responsible for all discharges into the river. DEQ says it notified all downstream drinking water facilities, including those in Brunswick and New Hanover counties, Tuesday afternoon. Kuraray shut down operations Tuesday night to stop discharges while the source is being investigated, DEQ said.

DEQ staff discovered a sheen at Outfall No. 2 Tuesday, while conducting bi-weekly sampling.

Chemours partially shut down the a gate to the outfall in order to slow the flow; the company also deployed absorbent booms.

WECT reported that the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority and Brunswick County had stopped withdrawing water at some of their intakes to prevent the contamination from reaching their water treatment facilities.

Vaughn Hagerty, spokesman for CFPUA, released a statement about the utility’s contact with Chemours:

“In conference calls Tuesday and Wednesday, Fayetteville Works Plant Manager Brian Long told CFPUA staff that that it is believed that about 30 gallons of a plasticizer leaked from Kuraray Americas, an industrial tenant at the site. Long said the material contained no PFAS. He also said that containment steps had been taken and that the spill had ceased and was no longer entering the Cape Fear River.”

According to the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory, Kuraray is a plastics and rubber manufacturer. The facility released 105 tons of contaminants into the air and Cape Fear River in 2017: ethylene glycol (antifreeze), methanol (wood alcohol) and butyraldehyde, a highly flammable solvent that can severely irritate the lungs, throat and eyes.

Chemours issued a statement Wednesday afternoon:

DEQ said its staff is onsite conducting further sampling and investigating the extent of the spill and will direct the facilities to take further corrective actions as warranted.

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