“The opening salvo in the battle for a cleaner Cape Fear River has just been fired. On May 7 Cape Fear River Watch announced their intention to bring suit against Chemours in 60 days for numerous Clean Water Act violations. Acting as legal counsel, Southern Environmental Law Center filed the suit under section 505(b) of the Clean Water Act. The act basically states any citizen may commence civil action against someone who is violating the Clean Water Act, or any administrator who hasn’t done his or her job to protect the water. The 60-day notice was sent via certified mail to Ellis H. McGaughy, Fayetteville Works’ plant manager; both Chemours and DuPont; Scott Pruitt, administrator of the EPA; Trey Glenn, Region 4 administrator of the EPA; Jeff Sessions, attorney general of the United States; and Michael Regan, secretary of the NC Department of Environmental Quality.

The document names Chemours Company FC, LLC, as being the Delaware company registered and doing business in North Carolina ‘responsible for all violations at the Fayetteville Works Facility.’

The document is 20 pages and outlines much of what has been reported locally. Since its initial report almost a year ago, by now everyone knows Chemours has been dumping toxic chemicals into our drinking water for over three decades. The notice gives background on the Fayetteville Works chemical manufacturing facility, how DuPont owned and operated it from 1971 until 2015, and how Chemours owns it now. It also covers Chemours’ discharge permit, which allows them to release set amounts of certain chemicals. It notes how they have to follow the permit in order to legally operate, but more so, how, despite this, DuPont and Chemours discharged chemicals into the river that weren’t on their permit. And, still, today, Chemours is discharging chemicals since the public found out last year and the DEQ asked them politely to stop because they were breaking the law.

There is a section of the notice outlining myriad atrocities the chemicals do to bodies of rodents: damage to livers and kidneys, problems with lungs and tongues, stomachs and pancreases, reproductive issues, cancers, etc. Despite such, what really stands out—the part which sends a shot of cold fear through my veins most—is the sheer scale of the mess in Fayetteville. Chemours is releasing nearly 100,000 pounds of GenX and other PFAS compounds (just because GenX has the sexiest name doesn’t mean it’s the only problem) into the air from its stack each year. Between 2012 and 2016 alone, the company pumped about 497,000 pounds into the atmosphere. That’s around 248 tons released in only five years. In other units of measurement, it’s approximately 42 elephants or 20 cruise-ship anchors worth of toxic chemicals. DEQ has ‘determined these emissions to be a primary source of surface water and groundwater contamination,’ according to the document…

The NC DEQ didn’t escape the notice’s attention, either: “DEQ has not diligently prosecuted Chemours’ Clean Water Act violations.” Over the course of the last 11 months, Chemours has gotten a few sternly worded letters from the state but nothing to really make them sit up and take notice. It mentions how the DEQ’s focus seems to be on GenX, despite the presence of many other PFAS compounds—the overwhelming presence, for one such sibling compound to GenX, was found in concentrations of several million parts per trillion (8,174,250 parts per trillion, to be exact) at a well onsite.”

Read the full article by John Wolfe