Environment

EPA cites Chemours with multiple notices of violation; company allegedly failed to provide key documents

The EPA today announced it has issued a Notice of Violation to Chemours for failing to comply, on multiple occasions, with federal law at the company’s plant in Fayetteville. According to EPA documents — some of them heavily redacted — obtained earlier today by Policy Watch, Chemours in Fayetteville failed to provide many key documents related to the import, processing, recycling/reclamation, and health and safety effects of GenX and other chemicals.

The EPA did not mention a financial penalty in the documents.

Chemours spokesperson Lisa Randall issued a statement about the EPA action, saying the company is aware of it and is “in the process of reviewing it to better understand the agency’s concerns. Once we fully understand the details of the notice, we will work with the agency on any additional steps that may be needed. It’s important to understand that the notice pertains to inspections done in 2017. We’ve already taken signifcant action to address PFAS emissions between 2017 and today.”

During a June 2017 inspection, EPA officials asked Chemours if the facility had imported any chemical substances in the last four years. According to EPA documents, “Chemours stated that all chemical import activities were controlled by corporate office. As a result Chemours did not provide any records on the import of substances associated with the facility.”



Chemours TSCA NOV CBI SANITIZED 021318 SIGNED (1) (Text)

Nearly months passed until  Jan. 4, 2018, when Chemours disclosed to EPA Region 4, which covers the Southeast, that it imported GenX compounds. Three weeks later, the EPA requested Chemours provide dates the GenX compounds were recycled and the method; the origin and disposal sites of the waste; the amount released each day, and where any emissions occurred.

As Policy Watch reported last month, in mid-December 2018, the EPA filed a Temporary of Notice of Objection to further imports and exports of GenX compounds to the Netherlands. A Chemours spokesperson said at the time that the company had been importing and exporting the material for five years.

Chemours failed to provide the EPA  with a “pre-manufacture notice,” which also covers imports, of certain new chemical compounds within the legally required 90 days before the production or importation began.

Chemours in Fayetteville transports GenX compounds to New Jersey and West Virginia, and exports them to the Netherlands, Japan, China and India.

A shipping manifest obtained by Policy Watch shows the Chemours plant in Dordrecht, the Netherlands, exports GenX compounds through a Belgian port, to the Port of Liverpool in England, and then onto Wilmington, NC. From there it is transported to Fayetteville.

EPA officials raised other questions during the 2017 inspection in Fayetteville. The agency asked about any documentation Chemours had detailing possible adverse health effects and reactions to the chemicals used at the plant. The EPA also asked for a list of health studies, as well as any known health and safety information.

“At the time of the inspection, Chemours indicated they had no such records and they would check with their corporate office in Delaware,” the EPA documents read. “No records were provided.”

Chemours did not submit required notifications for “significant new use” of certain chemicals. (The names of some chemicals were redacted because they are considered Confidential Business Information.)

The EPA also requires a GenX to be used in a closed loop, with no discharges to the environment. However, Chemours did release the compounds into the groundwater, surface water and air — and had been since 1980.

Under pressure from state regulators and environmental advocates, Chemours is investing $100 million in state-of-the-art emission control technology at our Fayetteville site to achieve 99% reduction in PFAS air and water emissions by the end of 2019.

A public hearing on the technology, known as a thermal oxidizer/scrubber, is scheduled for Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Bladen County Community College Auditorium, 7418 NC Hwy 41 West, in Dublin.



TSCA NON CBI R3 Chemours Inspection Report (Text)



Chemours R4 Sanitized Report (1) (Text)

Environment

NC residents demand more action from environmental justice board

Jamie Cole of the NC Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory Board discussed the group’s possible recommendation on the proposed swine farm permits.

During a brief break at yesterday’s convening of the Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory Board, a man introduced himself to me as Bill. A recent transplant to Wilmington, Bill had decided to spend some precious hours of his retirement listening to the myriad environmental crises that have buffeted the state: coal ash, GenX, methyl bromide, natural gas pipelines, the wood pellet industry, uranium and cyanide plumes, swine waste.

At one point, Bill turned to me, a tinge of buyer’s remorse in his voice, and lamented, “This state is the den of iniquity.”

Bill, it’s worth noting, is from New Jersey.  Yes, New Jersey, home of 105 Superfund sites, a childhood cancer cluster in Toms River, and some of the worst air pollution in the nation.

Although the meeting agenda was wide, it wasn’t deep, four hours being insufficient to delve into the public’s concerns. “This board is moving too slowly,” said John Wagner, who had trekked from Pittsboro to Wilmington for the event. “We have critical issues in this state and we’re running out of time.”

Wagner’s remarks pointed to the public’s impatience with the board. It lacks a sense of urgency. It has yet to advise NC Department of Environmental Quality on how to best communicate with underserved communities, particularly those without reliable access to the Internet or newspapers.  It needs to set an agenda for the DEQ, not vice versa. And it needs to wield its power. Although the board lacks rule-making authority, its members nonetheless can influence decisions at the highest levels of the department.

Part of the problem is the 16-member board meets quarterly, but considering the issues facing the state, that is too seldom. (The Environmental Management Commission, for example, meets every other month.) As a result, the board can’t be nimble in its feedback to DEQ. The deadline for public comment on Duke Energy’s plans to clean up coal ash at six sites is Friday; the affected communities unanimous in wanting the material fully excavated from unlined pits and put in dry storage. Another deadline regarding swine farm permits is looming. That short time frame forces the board and its subcommittees to scramble to write their recommendations and resolutions to DEQ.

“This board is the respected environmental experts of the state,” said Dana Sargent of Cape Fear River Watch. “The process is too slow.” DEQ’s decision how to regulate swine farms, will affect 2,300 facilities in eastern North Carolina. And the next permitting doesn’t occur until 2024. If the board doesn’t chime in now, Sargent said, “you’ll have to wait another five years.”

Sargent also pushed the board to advise DEQ to regulate perfluorinated compounds — PFAS — as a class, which the department has the statutory authority to do. (The EPA is announcing its rules on PFAS tomorrow, Feb. 14, at 9 a.m.) “Our state is failing these [affected] communities.”

Read more

Environment

Got something to say about coal ash? This is your week to share that input.

The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is accepting public comment through Friday (February 15th) on how Duke Energy should handle the storage of its coal ash.

Duke Energy has proposed leaving the coal ash at six unlined pits, but environmental groups say it will keep polluting groundwater, lakes, and rivers.

Frank Holleman of the Southern Environmental Law Center says Duke should be required to excavate the remaining ash as it has done at eight other sites in North Carolina and all of its sites in South Carolina.

Click below to listen to our recent interview with Holleman:

To learn more about Duke Energy’s progress on closing the ash basins, click here.

Image: Appalachian Voices

To comment on the Allen Steam Station coal ash cleanup, email: allencomments@ncdenr.gov
To comment on the Belews Creek Steam Station coal ash cleanup, email: belewscomments@ncdenr.gov
To comment on the Marshall Steam Station coal ash cleanup, email: marshallcomments@ncdenr.gov
To comment on the Mayo Power Station coal ash cleanup, email: mayocomments@ncdenr.gov
To comment on the Rogers Complex coal ash cleanup (formerly Cliffside), email: rogerscomments@ncdenr.gov
To comment on the Roxboro Steam Plant coal ash cleanup, email: roxborocomments@ncdenr.gov

Environment

In the Netherlands, Chemours washes its hands of GenX waste, fails to monitor for it

Chemours in Dordrecht, the Netherlands (Photo: Chemours website)

This post has been updated with a comment from Chemours.

The Chemours plant in Dordrecht shipped waste containing GenX compounds for processing, but failed to both sample for them and to keep proper records on the type and origin of the waste, according to a Dutch Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate report issued in July 2018. The waste haulers are unaware they’re carrying GenX compounds, which potentially contaminate the shipping containers.

The inspectorate’s investigation showed that “little or no attention is given to [GenX] substances in waste throughout the entire chain,” and that the substances “re consequently emitted into the environment at various places in the chain. An overview of where and to what extent emissions into the environment occur cannot be provided at this time based on the information currently available.”

Chemours determines whether a waste flow contains GenX compounds based on the production process, but the inspectorate said it couldn’t establish that Chemours uses any formal methods to verify that. “Chemours takes no measurements to determine whether [GenX] substances are in the waste. The waste substances’ records of Chemours do not always show what the type and origin of the waste flows are. This led in one case to the discovery of a waste flow that evidently contained [GenX] substances, while they should not have been present based on the production process,” the report reads.

The waste processors don’t test the material for GenX compounds. And the inspectorate noted that transport companies deliver Chemours waste but don’t always clean their tankers afterward, nor do they test for traces of GenX compounds.

“These vehicles may then be used to transport other (waste) flows, which may then become contaminated” with GenX compounds, the report reads. If the haulers do clean their tanks, the rinse water could contain GenX compounds. “The cleaning companies discharge this rinse water into the sewer,” the report read.

Lisa Randall, communications lead for Chemours, said the company reviewed the report when it appeared “and communicated our strong disagreement with several of the observations. The suggestion that Chemours does not know what our waste contains or where it goes is false. Our waste process is carefully managed and we closely track waste discharge. All of the GenX that is brought to North Carolina is either recycled or incinerated out of state.  We consistently share relevant information with involved parties including waste handlers, waste transporters and the regulatory agencies in the locations where we operate.  We have an unwavering commitment to environmental stewardship and are delivering on our commitment to reduce the emission of all PFAS compounds at our Fayetteville site at least 99 percent by the end of 2019.”

When Chemours in Fayetteville transports its GenX-contaminated waste to Texas or other offsite locations, it is shipped with a Class 9 placard on the truck, said a DEQ spokesperson, which indicates it contains an environmentally hazardous substance. A shipping manifest also indicates the waste is hazardous.

There is now a bottleneck in recycling and processing the waste abroad, according to an article published today in a Dutch news outlet. Since the Italian recycler Miteni declared bankruptcy, Chemours in Dordrecht has few places to process the GenX waste.

Until recently, the article reads, the Italian recycler processed the compounds, then sent them back to Chemours in Dordrecht for reuse. Transport documents show that in 2015 and 2016, Chemours sent 100 tons each year to Italy for processing. Now that Miteni is out of business, Chemours must get back the material or find another processor — not in the US. Because the EPA has temporarily objected to further imports of the GenX-containing compounds  from the Netherlands to the Fayetteville Works facility, Chemours in Dordrecht can store it for up to one year.

Environment, News

Gov. Cooper talks to our reporter about climate change: “We have to move”

As reported over on the main NC Policy Watch website this morning, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper testified on Capitol Hill yesterday about the need for government action to combat the effects of climate change. Afterward, Cooper engaged in a brief exchange with reporters — including Tony Pugh, a reporter for the Newsroom network, of which Policy Watch is a member. Here’s Tony’s summary of the Q&A:

Q – What were your impressions of today’s first climate change hearing in the House Natural Resources committee in more than 8 years?

A – “I hope this is a good kick-off to this discussion. Clearly there’s differences of opinion, but I think we got off to a good start today.”

Q – Do you support Democrats’ call for a “Green New Deal or a carbon tax?

A – “I think its clear that we’ve got to find a way to significantly reduce our greenhouse gasses very rapidly. And I think all of those issues need to be on the table in how we get there. I do believe that you can (use incentives to accomplish) a lot of this.”

Q – Are you discouraged that Congress hasn’t already moved to radically reduce emissions?

A – “I think the positive thing here is that most people now are acknowledging that we do have climate change. But then, now there is a debate over how much humans contribute to that and how much we can do and whether we are too late. The overwhelming scientific evidence shows that humans do cause climate change, we are a significant contributor to climate change and that we need to act quickly if we’re going to have an effect and stop the disaster that may occur.”

Q – Can the Trump administration be convinced to sign off on significant action to reduce climate change?

A – “It needs to start with this Congress and they need to lift this issue up in their negotiations with the Senate and the president. This president doesn’t have a good track record on this when you see what they’re trying to do with the clean power plan and rolling back the gains made in trying to reduce automobile emissions….In this Congress, now with this new majority, this issue can be raised up and it can be inserted into all of the negotiations that are going on right now.”

Q – Has the U.S. waited too long to seriously address climate change?

A – “It is not too late to do this. Many states have gone ahead and moved on and said ‘we’ve gotta do this.’ So states are taking action. And that’s one of the beauties of our federalism. You can have states, that are the laboratories of democracy, that can come up with good ideas on how we have more renewable energy and a clean economy and (how) we look for energy efficiency. I know, often times, the states come up with great ideas. And it’s so hard to move this giant ship that is the federal government, eventually, they take a lot of these good ideas that come at the state level. So it’s not too late. The time is now. We have to move.”

Meanwhile, Cooper’s campaign sent an appeal to supporters today in which he asked them to join him in combating the Trump administration’s plan to bring offshore oil and gas drilling to the North Carolina coast. This is from the appeal:

Tell the Trump administration that North Carolina’s coast is OFF LIMITS for offshore drilling

Making your voice heard here is important. If we show that North Carolinians are united against drilling off our coast, it could make a real difference. Add your name today.