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CoastLine: Water Contamination By PFAS Still Plagues NC And The Cape Fear Region

The Fayetteville Works facility, where Chemours manufactures PFAS or 'forever chemicals.'
Vince Winkel
The Fayetteville Works facility, where Chemours manufactures PFAS or 'forever chemicals.'

PFAS, a class of manmade chemicals in the drinking water supply of the Cape Fear region, are unregulated, likely carcinogenic and otherwise toxic to humans, and are still entering the air and water in southeastern North Carolina.  State Attorney General Josh Stein has filed a lawsuit against DuPont, Chemours, and other corporate entities associated with DuPont and the production of these toxic chemicals.  Often referred to as “forever chemicals”, PFAS are so-called because they bioaccumulate and do not biodegrade. 

In 2017, a Consent Order signed by Chemours, Cape Fear River Watch, and the state’s Department of Environmental Quality required Chemours to stop disharging GenX and other PFAS into the air and into the Cape Fear River.  The Order was amended just last month and a day later, the state’s Department of Justice filed its suit. 

Segment 1: 

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein

Segments 2 and 3:

Lee Ferguson, Associate Professor of Environmental Engineering and Science, Duke University; Co-chair of the Executive Advisory Committee for the PFAS Testing Network, created by the North Carolina General Assembly to test for current levels of PFAS chemicals in drinking water and air samples across the state

Emily Donovan, Co-founder of Clean Cape Fear, a grass-roots community group of advocates and community leaders working on water quality restoration and protection; part of the leadership of the National PFAS Contamination Coalition

Chemours Spokesperson Lisa Randall provided the following statement in response to the lawsuit filed by NC Attorney General Josh Stein:

"Chemours has operated as an independent company since July 1, 2015, producing essential chemistries that enable connectivity, medical technology, aerospace and automotive advancements, renewable energy and many others. Since our founding as an independent company, Chemours has taken definitive action to address historic and current emissions and discharges at our Fayetteville site, and continues to do so. 
Chemours has cooperated with the State of North Carolina to address PFAS concerns, and has agreed to a court approved Consent Order (CO) and its addendum, which was recently agreed and entered by the court. Those documents lay out many of the actions we have taken and continue to take to address the concerns of our neighbors in North Carolina. 

In 2018, Chemours announced ten ambitious Corporate Responsibility Commitment goals, which include a decrease of fluorinated emissions by at least 99% at all of our manufacturing sites worldwide. We continue to make progress in achieving that goal, and know of no other company that has made a similar commitment.

Our investment in multiple emissions control technologies at our Fayetteville NC facility has significantly decreased GenX air emissions by 99% and the thermal oxidizer technology that was designed and installed in record time continues to capture and destroy PFAS with greater than 99.99% efficiency.  We continue to decrease PFAS loading to the Cape Fear River and began operation this fall of a capture and treatment system of a significant groundwater source at the site.  Under the CO Addendum, Chemours will take numerous other measures to address PFAS loadings from other pathways, including additional onsite groundwater sources to the Cape Fear River.   These actions will further decrease the diminishing constituent contribution from the site to the river. As media reports have noted, Chemours is one of many entities whose discharge impact the water of the Cape Fear River."

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.