State News

Chemical company agrees to reveal more about discharges in Cape Fear River

Posted September 11

— A chemical company that for years has discharged compounds with unknown health risks into a major drinking-water supply is under court order to provide more details to North Carolina investigators.

The court order signed late Friday requires The Chemours Co. to turn over internal data to state and federal environmental officials once the company and North Carolina reach a confidentiality agreement. The Wilmington, Delaware-based chemical giant did not respond Monday to questions about the disclosure deal it reached with the state Department of Environmental Quality ahead of the order signed by Bladen County Superior Court Judge Douglas Sasser.

The agreement commits the company to cooperating more fully with a state investigation of chemical runoffs into the Cape Fear River. The river is a key water supply for more than 200,000 people downstream from the Chemours plant in Bladen County, which employs nearly 1,000 workers.

The court order requires Chemours to turn over details about its manufacturing process for the chemical GenX at the plant south of Fayetteville, as well as all studies the company has into the effects of chemicals made at the plant on human health, toxicity, and aquatic life studies.

The order said it doesn't affect the state's potential claims about polluted groundwater or involving other chemicals. Chemours is also required to continue preventing GenX from entering the Cape Fear River. Chemours specified that the agreement isn't an admission of any facts in the dispute.

The state environmental officials said last week they will test wells of the plant's neighbors after finding worrying early signs of GenX in the groundwater under the factory. Chemours said GenX was found in trace levels and it, too, will test nearby water wells for signs of the chemical.


Tracking GenX

State environmental officials began testing locations along the Cape Fear River for concentrations of GenX on June 19, 2017, and have continued to sample the water to track the contaminant. After the chemical company Chemours agreed to stop dumping GenX into the river June 20, concentrations dropped drastically, in most cases below the 140 parts per trillion public health standard set by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Find out more about how the state's ongoing tests of water for GenX in 13 locations along the Cape Fear River have changed over time. "Raw" sites were tested before water treatment, while "finished" sites were tested after treatment. Data updated Aug. 28, 2017

 
Below standard Above standard
Graphic by Tyler Dukes

The state environmental agency has argued that Chemours, a Fortune 500 company, hasn't adequately disclosed releases of GenX, an unregulated compound used to make Teflon.

Only after news organizations in June publicized a North Carolina State University researcher's findings did Chemours inform the state agency that GenX byproducts had been discharged into the river for decades, DEQ said.

There are no federal health standards for GenX. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies it as an "emerging contaminant" to be studied. The chemical has been used since 2009 to make Teflon and other non-stick products, replacing the suspected carcinogen PFOA.

In February, DuPont and Chemours agreed to pay nearly $671 million to settle 3,500 lawsuits related to the release of PFOA from a Parkersburg, West Virginia, plant more than a decade ago. DuPont spun off Chemours two years ago.

GenX is part of a broader problem of chemicals deployed into industrial production before their risks are clear. For example, researchers are increasingly finding a likely human carcinogen called 1,4-dioxane in water supplies in North Carolina and dozens of other states.

Public water supplies in the Cape Fear River basin around Fayetteville are some of the most contaminated with the industrial solvent in the country, with levels well above what the EPA considers to increase cancer risk, according to a report last week by Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization.

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Follow Emery P. Dalesio on Twitter at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio. His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/emery%20dalesio

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  • Arthur Raleigh Sep 12, 9:48 a.m.
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    Reveal more? Shouldn't they be required to perform a full disclosure?