Environment

Preliminary fish tissue, lake results show presence of GenX, other fluorinated compounds

Jimmy Dew and his family own the 14-acre Marshwood Lake, just northeast of the Chemours plant. He spoke earlier this year at a public information session in Bladen County. (File photo: Lisa Sorg)

Surface water, sediment and three species of fish from a private lake near the Chemours plant tested positive for several perfluorinated compounds, state environmental officials told the Science Advisory Board today.

Marshwood Lake, which is owned by the Dew family, lies seven-tenths of a mile northeast of the Chemours plant near the Bladen-Cumberland county line.

NC Department of Environmental Quality took the samples in March and April, targeting 33 known perfluorinated compounds, including GenX. Only one of three fish species sampled tested positive for GenX.

  • Redear sunfish, .00027 parts per million (270 parts per trillion) for GenX and an estimated concentration of .00049 ppm (49 parts per trillion) of PFOS, which has been phased out.
  • Two largemouth bass did not contain detectable amounts of GenX, but they did have five other perfluorinated compounds, including PFOS.
  • One blue catfish sample tested positive for four compounds, of the longer-carbon chain variety. Scientists theorize that compounds with more carbon molecules — longer carbon chains — could be more harmful than their shorter-chain counterparts. However, more research is needed, including studies on the cumulative effects of many compounds on human health.

Because the results are preliminary and the sample size small, the data cannot be used to issue a fish consumption advisory, said Sandy Mort, DEQ environmental toxicologist. Sampling in the fall could show different results because the fish will have had time to grow.

The state also released other sampling results for GenX:

  • Sediment, 1,800 parts per trillion;
  • Lake water samples, 968 ppt;
  • A natural spring that feeds the lake, 1,160 ppt.

Both water sources contained 16 different perfluorinated compounds, including a Nafion byproduct and so-called legacy compounds, such as PFOS and PFOA, which have been phased out.

The source of the contamination is likely air emissions and groundwater discharges from the Chemours plant. The compounds are leaving the stacks at the facility and, when they mix with water, can transform into GenX. In turn, GenX contaminates the soil, groundwater and surface water.GenX also leaches from soil and volatilizes — becomes vapor — from water.

The EPA is analyzing studies on rats and mice conducted by Chemours and is expected to issue health goals for GenX by late summer. Early analyses show that chronic exposure to GenX and fluorinated compounds can harm the kidneys and liver, and suppress the immune system, They can also cause developmental and reproductive problems, as well as decrease red blood cell counts.

 

 

agriculture, Courts & the Law, Environment

BREAKING: Federal hog nuisance trial halted

[This is a developing story. It will be updated as information becomes available.]

Update: The trial has resumed with all 12 jurors

The federal hog nuisance trial against Murphy-Brown and Smithfield Foods has been stopped, at least temporarily, because a juror allegedly brought in printed material about the N.C. Farm Act debate.

According to a source with knowledge of the inner workings of the trial, the juror may have also passed the material on to other jurors.

The trial is on hold until US District Court Judge Earl Britt decides whether to dismiss the juror or jurors involved— or to declare a mistrial.

The trial could proceed with as few as six jurors. During the first trial, two jurors were dismissed for personal reasons, such as illness.

Murphy-Brown lost the first trial, which prompted Sen. Brent Jackson to sponsor SB 711, the N.C. Farm Act. The bill would all but erase the rights of neighbors of industrialized hog farms to sue for nuisance.

Environment

Landowners along potential MVP Southgate path fighting unwanted land agents still waiting for attorney general to intervene

Darrell Dinkler, land agent with Doyle Land Services (Photo: courtesy Daniel Bollinger)

Intimidating phone calls. Hard-sell tactics. Alleged trespassing.

Since April, when the owners of the Mountain Valley Pipeline several property owners in Rockingham and Alamance counties have publicly shared stories of being harassed and verbally bullied by land agents for the MVP Southgate natural gas project.

Yet so far, the state attorney general’s office has not responded to citizen complaints by reining in the contractors’ conduct.

Laura Brewer, spokeswoman for the Department of Justice has not returned phone or email messages that Policy Watch left for her yesterday seeking comment.

The project would extend the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline, entering North Carolina just east of Eden in Rockingham County and extending southeast, ending near Graham in Alamance County. Land agents and surveyors have since swarmed the area.

“[The agent] left a note on my gate,” said one woman who attended a meeting sponsored by the Haw River Assembly in Alamance County last month. “A week or so, another note.” The land agent, who wanted to speak to her about a survey, “got really pushy,” the woman said. The agent then spoke with her husband, saying “Wouldn’t you love to have a natural gas line in your state?”

“My husband told the land agent no,” the woman said. “And she hung up.”

In April, Daniel and Kelly Bollinger, who live near Green Level, told Policy Watch that Doyle Land Services agent Darrell Dinkler had tried to mislead them about the pipeline and had also persistently called them, even at night, about accessing their land. The Bollingers denied the company any access to their 53-acre farm.

Last week, Bollinger took photos of Dinkler, who was accompanying survey crews another resident’s private property. Bollinger said he was present when an Alamance County Sheriff’s Deputy ordered Dinkler and the crew to leave and remove all equipment because they didn’t have permission to be there.

An Alamance County Sheriff spokesman Sgt. Mark Dockery said he had no incident reports of trespassing calls involving the pipeline crews. However, he said it is possible that deputies had been called to a location but didn’t take a report.

Shawn Day, spokesperson for the MVP Southgate acknowledged that Dinkler accompanied the survey crew TRC Solutions to “serve as a point of contact for landowners.”

“When TRC’s survey crew was asked to leave, the Doyle representative assisted them in packing up their equipment to expedite their departure from the premises,” Day wrote in an email.

Doyle Land Services can’t legally survey in North Carolina because the firm is not licensed here. However, the firm can operate as land agents. The NC Department of Environmental Quality maintains a “Registry of Landmen” for land agents seeking access to private property for fracking and other mineral rights. However, state law does not require land agents working on pipeline projects to register — even though the statute specifically mentions the word “pipelines.”

Environment

DEQ cites Chemours with more groundwater violations, asks court to intervene, invites public to comment

Joan Jackson of Bladen County told DEQ officials at a public information session last month that her well water felt “sticky.” (Photo: Lisa Sorg)

State environmental officials say they will petition a Bladen County Superior Court Judge to force Chemours to  reduce its air emissions of fluorinated compounds at the Fayetteville Works facility by 97 percent within two months, as well as pay for permanent water supplies to households whose water has been contaminated by GenX pollution from the plant.

In a press release issued this afternoon, the NC Department of Environmental Quality laid out multiple requirements in the 30-page proposed court order. The agency filed the request for a hearing today, but is also accepting public comment on the order for 30 days. If there are changes to the proposed order as a result, DEQ said it will submit those revisions to court.

Public comment on the proposed order may be mailed to: Assistant Secretary’s Office, RE: Chemours Public Comment, 1601 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, N.C., 27699-1601 Public comments may also be submitted by email to:comments.chemours@ncdenr.gov.

DEQ also cited the company for contaminating the groundwater with 18 other fluorinated compounds, a violation of state standards., DEQ could fine the company up to $25,000 per violation.

In addition to the air emissions reductions, the proposed court order imposes other requirements on the company:

  • Reduce the amount of fluorinated compounds in air emissions by 99 percent by Dec. 31, 2019
  • Re-test private drinking wells on a quarterly, semi-annual or annual basis, depending on the level of GenX compounds detected in the initial round of testing
  • Conduct toxicity studies relating to human health and aquatic life impacts from chemicals at the facility
  • 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
  • Line the so-called “Nafion ditch,” essentially a muddy channel that diverted contaminated wastewater into the groundwater
  • Hold at least one public meeting whenever Chemours proposes to change to its facility operations,
    including those that result in the “use, production, or release into the environment” of a previously undisclosed fluorinated compounds

If the judge grants the order, Chemours would then have another 30 days to submit a comprehensive plan to show the full extent of soil, drinking water, groundwater contamination both on- and off-site.

In April, the NC Department of Environmental Quality filed a 60-day notice telling Chemours it intended to modify the company’s air permit unless certain requirements were met. An hour before a deadline to respond Chemours sent DEQ paperwork that in part claimed the state’s groundwater standard of 10 parts per trillion was too stringent and that there was no scientific evidence supporting it.

Next week, the state’s Scientific Advisory Board could announce its recommendations on any changes to the state’s provisional health goal for drinking water. That goal is 140 ppt.

agriculture, Environment

NC Farm Act, fattened with protections for hog industry, up for Senate vote at noon

Sen. Brent Jackson: “The judge was wrong” to let nuisance lawsuits move forward. (Photo: NC General Assembly)

Room 1127 of the Legislative Building was hot, noisy and crowded, with onlookers packed cheek to jowl. The scene at yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee meeting felt temporarily like a hog confinement barn, but without the manure.

However, private property and environmental advocates would argue that the NC Farm Act stinks. Among its many problematic provisions, Senate Bill 711 would immunize industrialized hog operations from virtually all nuisance lawsuits. It would also establish the outdated and noxious method of open-air waste lagoons and spray fields as the preferred method of managing millions of tons of hog manure and urine.

Sen. Brent Jackson, a Republican who represents three major hog-producing counties — Duplin, Sampson and Johnston — insisted that the bill would still hold “bad actors” accountable.

The problem is, that if the bill becomes law, there will be very few, if any bad actors.

The key section, “Clarify and Amend North Carolina Right to Farm Law” establishes that farms are presumed not to be a nuisance if they are complying with state regulations — regulations that are weak and only lightly enforced.

“This is not just a clarification” of the law, “but a radical change,” said Michelle Nowlin, a supervising attorney at Duke University’s Environmental Law and Policy Clinic. “It deprives people of their fundamental rights and sanctions a taking of property to benefit private industry.”

Only the most egregious, flagrant violations would be vulnerable to a nuisance lawsuit. For example, Lanier Farms in Jones County discharged millions of gallons of hog manure and urine into the Trent River last September. No one filed a nuisance suit, but because of the farm’s 10-year violation history, state officials finally fined Lanier $64,000, the largest such penalty against a hog farm. Faced with bad publicity and potential Clean Water Act violations, Murphy-Brown pulled its pigs from the operation, which is now closed.

Nor would hog operations be considered a nuisance if they are managed in a manner “substantially consistent with practices, methods or procedures generally accepted and routinely utilized by other agricultural and forestry operations in the region.” (The bill also applies to forestry and all agriculture, but hog farms generate the most complaints.)

Deciphered, this means that if all hog farms in a “region” use open-air manure lagoons and spray that feces and urine onto their fields, then they are not a nuisance.

“People have to live in these conditions,” said Sen. Paul Lowe Jr., a Forsyth County Democrat. “It’s horrifying to think about. I hate to think about what it does to property values. It turns my stomach to hear some of this stuff.”

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