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GenX Bill Stalls; DEQ Orders Chemours Action

This report has been updated.

RALEIGH – House leaders declined Tuesday to consider the Senate’s version of a bill to address GenX and other emerging contaminants.

The Senate approved on Friday a reworked House Bill 189, now titled the Water Safety Act, and sent it back to the House. Legislative leaders vowed Tuesday to revisit the measure when the North Carolina General Assembly convenes May 16 for the short session.

As the session drew to a close Rep. Deb Butler, D-New Hanover, told House members said she was disappointed in the in the lack of action on GenX. Gov. Roy Cooper called the move “disgraceful.”

The issue will likely be raised again, however, when the House Select Committee on North Carolina River Quality meets Feb. 21. The meeting was announced Tuesday but an agenda was not immediately released.

Notice of Violation

Meanwhile, the state Department of Environmental Quality this week directed Chemours Fayetteville Works to take immediate new steps to control additional sources of GenX and other perfluorinated compounds from site contamination and air emissions.

DEQ issued Monday the notice of violation to Chemours Fayetteville Works and issued a letter directing the company to begin testing new technology to curb emissions from the facility’s smokestacks and granted limited approval for Chemours to try carbon filtration systems on residential drinking water wells.

The Feb. 12 notice of violation cites Chemours’ failure to take action following a Dec. 15 letter from DEQ that directed the company to terminate or control sources of contamination and mitigate onsite hazards.

The notice of violation requires Chemours to take immediate action to mitigate any hazards resulting from exposure to GenX and other pollutants and directs the company to immediately take steps including the following:

  • Excavate, treat or control all stormwater and wastewater conveyance ditches.
  • Remove, treat or control other known sources that could be causing further contamination.
  • Clean potentially contaminated equipment and capture any resulting wastewater for offsite disposal.
  • Reduce or eliminate air emissions that are contributing to groundwater contamination.

The notice of violation comes in the wake of at least four recent spill incidents at the Bladen County facility. Cleanup efforts began immediately following each spill and no contaminated wastewater reached the Cape Fear River.

State officials do not believe the spills caused subsequent GenX spikes in water samples taken from the facility’s discharge pipe at the river. However, there is a correlation between rain events and elevated levels of the chemical in water samples taken at that location, they said.

In September, DEQ pursued civil action against Chemours and obtained a partial consent order requiring the company to stop all discharge of process wastewater containing GenX. As part of their response to the consent order, Chemours severed and capped the plant’s industrial wastewater pipe.

On Nov. 13, DEQ issued a notice of violation to Chemours after a smokestack release of GenX caused deposition of the chemical on the facility’s grounds. Subsequent rainfall mixed with the GenX which resulted in contaminated stormwater being discharged to the Cape Fear River. Final enforcement action for this violation is under review by the department.

Private well sampling continues in the areas surrounding the Chemours facility. Testing performed to date indicates that 151 wells near the Chemours facility have levels of GenX above the health goal. Residents who rely on those wells are currently receiving bottled water. Phase III sampling results are available as well as a map of the area where Phase IV sampling recently began.

Gov. Roy Cooper’s office issued a statement Tuesday on the legislature’s  inaction, noting DEQ’s response.

“It’s disgraceful that after months of stalling, Republican legislators have gone home without doing anything to protect clean drinking water for North Carolina families. State environmental experts continue to hold Chemours accountable and are using all available resources to track the spread of GenX, and the latest notice of violation announced today shows the urgency. People in the Cape Fear region have a right to be angry that legislative leaders have failed to do their duty and give state scientists the tools they need to deal with GenX and other emerging contaminants.”

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Staff Report

The story was compiled by staff members of Coastal Review Online.