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.

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