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GenX: NC and Chemours Reach Partial Deal

Vince Winkel
The order requires Chemours to stop any discharges of GenX, the toxic chemical found in the Cape Fear River.

A partial consent order. That’s what a Bladen County judge approved late Friday between Chemours and the state of North Carolina. The order comes after lawyers for the chemical company and the state spent most of the day behind closed doors. 

The order requires Chemours to stop any discharges of GenX, the toxic chemical found in the Cape Fear River. The company says it has already done that. It also requires that Chemours stop the release of two compounds, called Nafion byproducts 1 and 2, in its wastewater stream.

Friday’s court date came days after the Department of Environmental Quality threatened to pull Chemours' discharge permit due to environmental contamination, and after the state issued a notice of violation against Chemours after high levels of GenX, and its predecessor C8, were found in Chemours’ Fayetteville Works facility groundwater.

New Hanover County Commissioner Woody White.

“What it is, is a good first start for holding the company accountable for its releases into the river that we have all felt since we heard this were illegal, not allowed under the permit, and this is the first real legal acknowledgement of that."

White says Chemours has no business keeping secrets.

“While there certainly are reasons, for example why you’d want to the 12 special herbs and spices a secret in Kentucky Fried Chicken, there is no reason why in the permit process that you’d ever want to allow a company to keep what its putting in the river to be a secret from the general public. And so I’m hopeful that that will result in more information being put out there, so that the health officials can then tell us what it is that our citizens have been consuming for 30-plus years."

For Commissioner White, Friday’s ruling was the best news he has heard since the StarNews broke the story in June.

“It is. We have been asking for and begging for enforcement action to be taking place, and we are very thankful, its better late than never that it’s happening."

The partial consent order includes that Chemours will give immediate permission to EPA for DEQ to review confidential business information.

Dana Sargent of Clean Cape Fear, a group of concerned organizations and citizens, says the order is a solid step forward.

“We’re pleased with that, we’re pleased with the fact that they are enforcing Chemours to provide more of their confidential business information to the DEQ so that they can continue this investigation, and they are requiring them to respond, with good faith efforts."

She adds that not all the news Friday was positive.

“We were a little shaken by county commissioner board chairman Peterson, up in Bladen County, who is threatening to sue the state. We understand that the concern he is claiming is for the folks who work at the plant, that’s a concern of everybody, nobody wants people to lose jobs but from our view the elected officials the appointed officials should all be working with the state against the guilty party, which is not the state that’s Chemours.”

County Chair Charles Ray Peterson worked for DuPont for 26 years, in Fayetteville.

Sargent says, enough with the politics.

“And that is kind of what we are hoping stops. We just want all hands on deck. Everybody should be working for the same goal, against the actual guilty party, which is obviously not the state – its Chemours and DuPont. We could get a lot more accomplished.”

Both DEQ and Chemours agreed that Bladen County Judge Douglas Sasser should continue to preside over the case as it moves forward. Chemours did not respond to a request for comment.