Cape Fear River Watch, a nonprofit group in Wilmington, is suing Chemours in federal court over the company’s discharges and emissions of GenX and other fluorinated compounds. If a judge rules in favor of CFRW, the company could be fined hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars in civil penalties.
The Southern Environmental Law Center is representing Cape Fear River Watch in the lawsuit, which was filed in the US District Court in Raleigh yesterday. The litigation alleges that Chemours and DuPont, its parent company, for decades have illegally discharged the chemicals not only into the Cape Fear River, but also the groundwater and air; these actions violate of the company’s federal discharge permit, the Clean Water Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act, the court filing says.
Although Chemours has reportedly stopped overt discharges of fluorinated compounds into the Cape Fear River, the company is still allowing contamination to enter the environment through old unlined pipes and ditches at the plant. Two nearby aquifers, the Surficial and the Black Creek, also have been contaminated with the compounds; levels of GenX in the Surficial Aquifer, which hugs the river, have reached 45,000 parts per trillion, while the Black Creek Aquifer has recorded concentrations exceeding 9,000 ppt. The state’s standard — the practical quantification limit — for GenX is 10 ppt. Groundwater beneath the plant has tested from 2 million to 8 million ppt for other fluorinated compounds.
DuPont and Chemours have long known not only that their facilities were illegally discharging these chemicals at high levels, the suit alleges, but they failed to notify federal and state regulators of precisely what and how much.
Exposure to fluorinated compounds, including GenX, have been linked to multiple health problems: thyroid disorders, reproductive, developmental and hormonal problems, high cholesterol, a depressed immune system, and in some cases, cancer.
DuPont and Chemours have long been aware of the health problems and the environmental contamination related to these substances, both in North Carolina and at its Parkersburg, WV, plants, the litigation alleges.
The SELC and Cape Fear River Watch are asking the court to force Chemours to stop all inadvertent discharges, to declare the company has violated environmental laws, and to assess penalties ranging from up to $37,000 per day to $52,000 day. Over years of violations, the penalties could accumulate to total millions of dollars.
Chemours is also being sued by the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, the NC Department of Environmental Quality, as well as other residents in a class action lawsuit who have been affected by the contamination.