99% reduction of Chemours’ PFAS pollution agreement approved
CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—A state court today approved an agreement that details the next steps under a consent order negotiated by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of Cape Fear River Watch with the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality and Chemours that requires the company to stop 99% of GenX and other PFAS water pollution from the most significant sources of pollution at its site into the Cape Fear River—the source of drinking water for Wilmington, Brunswick County, and Pender County. Now approved by Bladen County Superior Court, the agreement is enforceable and amends the consent order that the parties finalized in February 2019.
“The consent order is keeping a significant part of Chemours’ PFAS pollution out of the Cape Fear River today,” said Geoff Gisler, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “With the controls required by the addendum, the PFAS levels in the river will drop dramatically over the next year.”
Combined with the 2019 consent order’s requirement that Chemours reduce its pollution from air emissions by 99.99% and from a large on-site stream by at least 99%, the agreement ensures that pollution from every other significant pathway of PFAS contamination from the Chemours’ Fayetteville Works Facility to the Cape Fear River is reduced by at least 99 %.
“We’re very pleased with the court’s decision to accept the addendum,” said Dana Sargent, executive director of the Cape Fear River Watch. “With the consent order, this addendum will ensure that the main sources of Chemours’ pollution are stopped as quickly as possible—making the river safer for all downstream communities.”
The addendum requires Chemours to take accelerated actions to prevent PFAS pollution from on-site groundwater, small streams, and stormwater from reaching the Cape Fear River and downstream drinking water supplies, including:
- To control its groundwater pollution, Chemours will build an in-ground barrier between the Cape Fear River and its contaminated site. Chemours will pump out polluted groundwater trapped by the barrier and treat it, removing at least 99% of the PFAS. This remedy is expected to be completed in spring 2023.
- To control its contaminated streams flowing into the Cape Fear River, Chemours will install in-stream filters subject to strict pollution reduction requirements. After the barrier wall is installed, these filters must remove at least 99% of GenX and other PFAS pollution in the streams compared to existing conditions. In the interim, the company is required to reduce PFAS pollution in the streams by a minimum of 80%.
- To control stormwater pollution from its site, Chemours must capture stormwater from the portion of its facility that contributes the most contaminated runoff and treat it, removing at least 99% of the PFAS.
This addendum to the consent order is a critical next step for cleaning up contamination that took place over decades.
Next, the company must also re-submit a corrective action plan to ensure that contaminated groundwater on- and off-site is cleaned up and communities near the facility are protected. Chemours’ previous corrective action plan submittal was rejected by DEQ in April.
PFAS is a class of thousands of synthetic chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, and GenX and is associated with serious health impacts. These contaminants are known as forever chemicals—they do not dissipate, dissolve, or degrade but stay in water, soil, and our bodies.
For more than 30 years, the Southern Environmental Law Center has used the power of the law to champion the environment of the Southeast. With more than 80 attorneys and nine offices across the region, SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect our natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region. www.SouthernEnvironment.org