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GenX: The Door Opens At Chemours

Chemours, the company that had been discharging GenX and other compounds into the Cape Fear River, is starting to speak. This week, WHQR’s Vince Winkel visited the Chemours facility and sat down with the Fayetteville Works Site plant manager – where he learned about Chemours’ new plan to open up to the community. 

After a year of silence, words are being spoken. The silence had been deafening.

Chemours officials have decided to begin communicating with the public to build goodwill. The effort began this week with invitations to WHQR and the StarNews to tour the facility near Fayetteville.

“My name is Brian Long. I'm the Chemours plant manager at the Fayetteville Works site.”

Brian Long has been running the site since February of this year. He admits trying to build a sense of trust with the community around the plant and people in the Cape Fear Region is an uphill battle.

Since the story of GenX and perfluorinated compounds in the water supply first broke a year ago, the company responsible has said very little. Others have had plenty to say. Local leaders, concerned citizens, environmental groups, the Governor, the Department of Environmental Quality, have all hammered away at Chemours for what they have called its “irresponsible actions.”

Long admits they could have done better. Now, he says, they are doing better.

He’s standing outside at the plant, next to a new device that was just put online – that he claims will drop GenX emissions by 40% each year. 

“The purpose of those units are really to take organic vapor streams and, take those compounds through the activated carbon, which is very porous and the organic vapor streams and the compounds within those streams will actually adhere to the surface area on the activated carbon, a dropping off of the air, allowing the other air to move through and out into the environment.”

As for GenX and other compounds getting into the river, he says that was dealt with months ago.

“Well, the process that we're using right now is we're capturing all of our process water streams and we're not allowing any of them to get into the Cape Fear River. So those streams are all captured and, they're loaded into trucks and then they're sent to Texas for deep well disposal.”

“We're averaging anywhere between 14 and 17 trucks a day of material out of the plant site.

“Yes. Seven days a week. Twenty four hours a day. Three hundred sixty-five days a year.”

In addition, Chemours is building what’s called a thermal oxidizer on the site. In simple terms, it will heat water to separate chemicals so they can be destroyed. That technology is supposed to capture all PFAS compounds, not just GenX.

“These units will basically take all of the vapor streams that we have on the plant site, the thermal oxidizer, and they will thermally destroy all of the GenX molecules and all of the other PFAS molecules.”

He says by 2020, this will cut GenX emissions by 99 percent.

Long says the total investment in new technology to keep the air and water leaving the facility clean, is around $100 million. He says it is money well-spent.

“We have not been very present, you know, in the community and in the media. And you know, that's just, that's where it's been. But what I can say is during that period of time though we weren't out in public debate and talking about these, these issues and the community's concerns, we were very concerned about our community.”

“I think there's seven different community engagements that we have set up meetings. I'm going to be going to rotary clubs and ministerial councils, you know, I'm going to get out and we're going to talk to people and listen to them.”

Long says the company is playing by the rules.

Chemours will host a Town Hall meeting on June 12, at the Faith Tabernacle Christian Center, in St. Pauls.