An agreement signed today requires longtime polluter Chemours to start cutting back on the toxins it’s sending into the Cape Fear River. The consent order, also signed by the Cape Fear River Watch and North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, focuses on per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances like the widely discussed GenX.
Under the proposed consent order, Chemours is required to:
- clean up its pollution, in the short-term and long-term;
- provide clean drinking water to North Carolinians with contaminated wells;
- fund health studies of at least five of its chemicals;
- take specific actions to keep the public and public utilities informed of potential issues with the facility; and
- pay the largest fine ever levied by the state Department of Environmental Quality.
The order requires Chemours to take concrete steps on an accelerated schedule to reduce the pollution from its facility. First, Chemours must reduce GenX air emissions by at least 92 percent beginning December 31, 2018, and by at least 99 percent beginning December 31, 2019. These commitments are backed by significant penalties against the company. Further, Chemours will provide an alternative drinking water supply or water treatment for those with contaminated drinking water, including households, businesses, schools, and other public buildings. Under the order, Chemours will be required to identify the full range of GenX-like chemicals in its contaminated ground and surface water and ensure that contaminated water stays on-site for treatment. Finally, Chemours will fund studies of the health effects of several PFAS and pay a $12 million civil penalty to North Carolina.
“This agreement starts us down the path to a cleaner Cape Fear and safer drinking water by keeping contaminated air and water from leaving the site,” said Senior Attorney Geoff Gisler. “After decades of unchecked pollution from this facility, this order is a step forward in restoring the Cape Fear and protecting communities and families downstream.”
If accepted by the Bladen County Superior Court following a 30-day comment period, the proposed consent order will resolve the state’s pending lawsuit against Chemours for violating North Carolina water quality laws. Cape Fear River Watch also agreed to dismiss its federal lawsuit against Chemours for violations of the Clean Water Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act. The settlement does not impact other pending lawsuits against Chemours by citizens or water utilities.
“Communities along the Cape Fear River have been terribly wronged by the contamination of our drinking water,” said Kemp Burdette, Cape Fear Riverkeeper. “We’ve been working to protect these communities since the news of Chemours pollution first broke. Today we can breathe a sigh of relief. Moving forward, we will be watching closely to ensure that Chemours does all that they have committed to do in this consent order.”
Over the next 30 days the public is invited to submit comments on the proposed order.