— State researchers plan to install long-term rain catchers around the Chemours facility in Bladen County and in other far-flung locations around North Carolina in a stepped-up effort to isolate chemicals from the plant that are appearing in rain.

The devices come on tripods that can be bolted to the ground. They’ll replace the state Department of Environmental Quality’s current method: black five-gallon buckets.

Among other issues, researchers have had a problem with the buckets left under trees and in fields around the plant getting swiped, Air Quality Director Michael Abraczinskas said…

The new devices also have motion sensors so that they’re only open when it rains, allowing scientists to test rainwater and “dry deposits” separately.

The devices run $6,500 apiece, and Chemours will cover the cost for four of them around its plant, DEQ Assistant Secretary for Environment Sheila Holman said. The state will pay for the other four, which are planned for installations in Asheville, Raleigh, Candor and Wilmington. Holman said these costs were covered in a recent funding bill approved by the General Assembly.

The devices will be paired, in at least some cases, with $4,500 worth of meteorological equipment to measure rainfall and other metrics and will be protected by fencing, DEQ officials said.

Tests have already found GenX, a compound Chemours uses to make Teflon and other products, in rain as far away as Wilmington. But at only one site, just east of Chemours’ Fayetteville Works, has the concentration found been above the state’s best guess at a safe level of the poorly understood industrial chemical…

DEQ is also overseeing ‘stack tests’ at the plant to measure what chemicals go into the air. The initial results are in, but researchers are still processing the data, which isn’t yet available to the public, Holman told legislators on an oversight committee.

Long term, Chemours plans to install a thermal oxidizer unit at the plant expected to be ‘at least 99.99 percent effective’ in removing targeted compounds from its stacks, according to Holman’s presentation.

Air emissions are the expected culprit for scientists trying to understand why GenX and other compounds showed up not just in the river where Chemours, and before it DuPont, has discharged wastewater for decades, but in groundwater as well. There are also plans to test vegetables grown near the plant, and the state is sampling fish flesh from the river.

During a state Science Advisory Board meeting earlier this week, researchers talked about the importance of understanding all the ways these chemicals can get into people’s bodies because that’s part of determining total exposure. The advisory board will eventually recommend a new health goal for GenX based on a deeper scientific look at a chemical that hasn’t been fully researched in the past.”

Read the full article by Travis Fain.