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DEQ requires Chemours to cut more GenX sources

February 13th, 2018

— State environmental regulators issued new orders against Chemours Monday, requiring the chemical firm to cut air emissions and other sources of GenX and other unregulated compounds contaminating ground- and surface water near its Bladen County plant.

Cape Fear River
Timeline: Tracking the route of GenX in the Cape Fear River

Officials at the company’s Fayetteville Works plant stopped releasing GenX into the Cape Fear River last year following widespread coverage of contamination by the compound, a largely unstudied industrial chemical used in the creation of Teflon, Gore-Tex, fast food wrappers and other products. Although its health effects are unclear, it belongs to a family of perfluorinated chemicals including several known to cause cancer.

The notice of violation sent this week from the state Department of Environmental Quality directs the company to take additional steps to halt ongoing contamination regulators have seen in nearby wells and in river water following heavy rainfall. That includes the reduction or elimination of air emissions, the cleaning of contaminated equipment, the treatment of stormwater ditches and the removal of “other known sources such that they are no longer ongoing sources of contamination.”

Chemours has until Feb. 26 to tell state regulators how it will implement the new orders.

Officials at the company have not yet responded to a request from WRAL News for comment.

Monday’s action by DEQ marks the third notice of violation against the company. Regulators cited the company in September after finding elevated levels of GenX and other chemical compounds in monitoring wells near the plant. The next notice came in November, when the company failed to report a smokestack release that caused a spike in GenX contamination in the Cape Fear River.

DEQ is still reviewing final enforcement action for the last violation, and the company is currently operating under a suspended permit prohibiting the release of wastewater where Chemours produces GenX and other fluorinated compounds.

New filter, air emissions tech on trial

DEQ also announced Tuesday that it approved a trial run of new technology designed to reduce the emissions of GenX from the facility, thought to be the source of groundwater contamination in the vicinity of the plant. The agency says the use of carbon-based filters should cut down on the amount of GenX released through the smokestacks of two of the plant’s buildings by more than 90 percent. Waste material from the filtering system will be disposed of offsite.

The company will continue to test air emissions and report back to DEQ.

Carbon-based filtration systems Chemours proposed for nearby drinking water wells, however, will need additional study. More than 100 drinking water wells near the Fayetteville Works facility have levels of GenX above the state’s health threshold, and the company offered to pay for the installation and maintenance of carbon filtration systems at affected homes.

Regulators said Tuesday there was insufficient data to determine if the systems are effective at removing GenX. But they did approve a pilot study to test the filters at four wells, and they required a final report from the company on the effectiveness of the systems.

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