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Spill at Chemours Site Reaches Cape Fear

This story has been updated.

Water utilities in southeastern North Carolina stopped drawing from the Cape Fear River Wednesday in response to a spill of an unknown substance at the Chemours Fayetteville Works industrial site, but resumed normal operations later in the day after consistent tests results indicating no abnormalities in river water.

The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority in Wilmington and Brunswick County’s water utility announced Wednesday that the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality had notified them late Tuesday that the substance had entered the river as a result of the spill, which had been reported about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority said that during conference calls Tuesday and Wednesday, Fayetteville Works Plant Manager Brian Long told CFPUA staff that it is believed that about 30 gallons of a plasticizer called 3GO leaked from Kuraray Americas, an industrial tenant at the site. Long said the material contained no PFAS. Containment steps had been taken and the spill was no longer entering the river, according to the authority’s description of the calls.

Chemours said in a statement that its monitoring process discovered the non-PFAS substance had entered the site’s water treatment system, and company operators took immediate action to close the gates to the system outfall. Chemours also  Testing and data showed that the substance was not a compound related to the Chemours manufacturing operations. Chemours said it immediately notified the appropriate authorities of the discovery.  

DEQ said the spill was reported after DEQ staff discovered a sheen at an outfall Tuesday while conducting bi-weekly sampling. In addition to shutting down the sluice gate to the outfall to slow the flow, Chemours deployed absorbent booms.

Chemours is the permit holder for the outfall. Under the Consent Order established by DEQ, Chemours is not permitted to discharge any process water into the Cape Fear River.

Kuraray shut down its process that resulted in the spill and Chemours has been in contact with Kuraray site management to ensure that the issue is corrected before the company resumes operations. 

Chemours is committed to being a leading steward of the environment and operating to the highest standards for safety and emission control.  We hold all site tenants and any contractors operating on our campus to the same high standard,” the company said in a statement.

The authority stopped withdrawing water from the Lower Cape Fear Water & Sewer Authority intake at Kings Bluff in Bladen County for about six hours, starting about 8 a.m. Wednesday and stopped withdrawing water from its own intake at Kings Bluff late Tuesday. The staff estimated that 8 a.m. would be the soonest the substances might reach the intake, which is about 55 miles from the outfall at Chemours’ Fayetteville Works. Samples taken at 8 a.m. and 9:20 a.m. showed no abnormalities, the authority said.

Brunswick County said the type and amount of the spilled substance did not represent a threat to the water system.

Brunswick County set up an information hotline, 910-253-2655.

News of the spill comes a day after the Cape Fear authority said it had asked DEQ for guidance after detecting elevated levels of 1,4-dioxane in raw water from the Cape Fear River for the fourth time this year.

The authority periodically tests raw water for 1,4-dioxane, which is used in industrial solvents and for several years has been detected in the Cape Fear and other North Carolina surface waters.

The latest test results showed concentrations of 1,4-dioxane of 6.3 parts per billion in untreated water on Sept. 9 and 1.3 ppb in treated water at Sweeney on Sept. 10.

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Staff Report

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