New EPA GenX toxicity standard highlights need to regulate PFAS pollution as a class of chemicals
CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—The Environmental Protection Agency’s release today of its final human health toxicity assessment for GenX underscores the importance of regulating PFAS as a class of chemicals and the need to stop harmful pollution at its source under existing laws, as the Southern Environmental Law Center did in litigation to stop pollution into the Cape Fear River from a Chemours facility in North Carolina.
“Today’s toxicity assessment is further confirmation that the more we learn about these chemicals, the more we learn that they must be treated as a class; no community should have to suffer from harmful PFAS as we wait for research to confirm their toxicity,” said Geoff Gisler, senior attorney and leader of the Clean Water Program at the Southern Environmental Law Center who led litigation against Chemours in North Carolina to stop GenX and other PFAS pollution. “This more stringent GenX toxicity assessment is why it’s so vital to our families and communities that DEQ, and state agencies nationwide, must impose stringent limits on PFAS using existing authority when issuing water permits to polluters.”
SELC’s litigation led to a consent order among Cape Fear River Watch, the state and Chemours to stop at least 99% of PFAS pollution at its source that contaminated the Cape Fear River. The more stringent standards for GenX likely will increase the number of people near the Chemours Fayetteville Works Facility that rely on drinking water wells who qualify for filtration paid for by Chemours under the consent order.
As pollution controls under the 2019 consent order are implemented, levels of GenX discharged from the facility decreased significantly, but the legacy of decades of PFAS pollution still burdens communities downstream with treatment costs and health harms.
GenX has been at non-detectable levels in nearly all treated water discharges at the Fayetteville Works Facility since implementation of controls in the consent order. The controls are also effective in removing other PFAS, demonstrating the availability of technology to keep PFAS out of drinking water supplies.
The Southern Environmental Law Center and our client, Cape Fear River Watch, continue to enforce the terms of a resulting consent order with the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality and Chemours to stop the GenX and other PFAS pollution at its source and ensure the Cape Fear River is safe for downstream communities. The river is the drinking water source for Wilmington, N.C., and Pender and Brunswick Counties downstream. GenX and other PFAS have been found in their treated drinking water at high levels.
A timeline of the GenX and other PFAS contamination discovery, litigation and consent order in North Carolina can be found here.
A graphic showing the pathways of PFAS contamination can be viewed here.