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.

 

 

Commentary, Environment

Bill to limit hog nuisance suits passes; coalition of nonprofits urges gubernatorial veto

The controversial North Carolina Farm Act was sent to Gov. Cooper today after the state Senate concurred with the House amendments. The bill has attracted intense opposition from a variety of parties, including environmental advocates, rural advocacy groups. trial lawyers and even some Republicans.

Last night, veteran GOP lawmaker John Blust of Guilford County delivered a stem-winder of a speech decrying the bill, in which, among other things, he blasted his fellow Republicans for rushing the bill through. Click here to see the speech.

This afternoon, a coalition of nonprofits that includes the North Carolina Justice Center (parent organization of NC Policy Watch) delivered a letter to Gov. Cooper calling on him to veto the bill. Here is an excerpt:

S711 deserves your veto for multiple reasons:

  • S711 eliminates property rights that pre-date North Carolina statehood and strips neighbors and communities of access to the courts in an effort to protect a single industry from liability. The bill constrains nuisance challenges so tightly that the only example of a viable claim the bill sponsor could imagine is a lawsuit following the complete abandonment of a farm by its owners.
  • The communities surrounding intensive hog farms in North Carolina are already disproportionately burdened based on their race or ethnicity. In January 2017, the US EPA expressed its concern that the impacts of animal agriculture, coupled with inadequate state remedies, violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Your Administration has shown leadership on this issue and recently settled negotiations resulting from that EPA letter. S711, section 10 would entrench the same unequal protection that concerned the federal agency, and is inconsistent with the values and direction of your Administration.
  • Even viewed from the perspective of H467’s supporters, S711 is unnecessary. There have been no nuisance suits filed against any agricultural operations in North Carolina other than the suits against Smithfield in a number of years. Furthermore, it is our understanding that no lawsuits filed after the effective date of H467 have reached a judgment against Smithfield or any other farm or integrator, and the ongoing lawsuits are not subject to either H467 or S711. Thus, even if one believed it was important to limit nuisance claims against the corporation, there is no evidence that S711 is needed to reach that goal.
  • Because the bill precludes lawsuits that have not been filed as of the date of the bill’s enactment, it effectively ‘takes’ the accrued but as yet unfiled claims of an unknown number of neighbors. Under Rhyne v. K-Mart Corp, 258 N.C. 160, 594 S.E. 2nd 1 (2004), S711 may leave the State responsible for compensating each of these residents for their lost claims, imposing an unknowable financial liability on state government.

Cooper has 10 days to act on the bill, which means a veto would have to happen by Monday, June 25.

agriculture, Environment

WATCH: Republican legislator chide colleagues on rushed process, legislation to protect “one giant corporation” (video)

If you missed it with this week’s marathon sessions at the General Assembly, be sure to take 14 minutes this weekend to listen to Rep. John Blust repeatedly challenge his colleagues on the House floor for their efforts to rush through the controversial Farm Act.

(As Policy Watch’s Lisa Sorg has reported SB 711 would all but erase the rights of neighbors of industrialized hog farms to sue for nuisance. The bill follows a $50 million dollar verdict in April in which Smithfield Foods lost a high profile nuisance suit to several Bladen County families.)

Rep. Blust, a Guilford County Republican, blasted legislative leaders for fast tracking the bill in response to an April court ruling, and then refusing to allow any amendments to be considered.

“We’re the people’s house and the people’s legislature, and we ought to do business in a deliberative fashion that befits the trust that’s been bestowed on us by the people.”

And for those who opted not to speak up, Blust offered this blunt assessment:

“What we do here is not a small matter. And people who really don’t want to look at these bills and have the debates, there’s still time till August to go ahead and take your name off the ballot and your party can  replace you. This is our duty.”

Click below to watch Rep. Blust’s full 14 minute speech:

In the end, the Republican-controlled House voted 65-42 to approve the farm Act, sending the measure to Governor Roy Cooper’s desk.

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.”