Read the full article by Greg Barnes (Fayetteville Observer)
“During a tour of Chemours last week, plant manager Brian Long stopped near a maze of pipes to explain new carbon adsorption systems that the company says are reducing airborne emissions of GenX and other potentially harmful fluorochemicals by 92 percent from 2017 levels.
A few minutes later, Long stopped again, this time at a construction site surrounding a giant metal tower of pipes, chambers and supports that, by year’s end, is anticipated to become an operable, $100 million thermal oxidizer. Long said the oxidizer will destroy 99 percent of all per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — or PFAS — keeping them from becoming airborne and leaving the plant’s boundaries.
Chemours has no choice but to meet the Dec. 31 deadline. It’s specified in a consent order entered in February between the company, the state and the environmental group Cape Fear River Watch. Construction crews are now working in two shifts to meet the deadline, Long said.
Chemours has been under fire since June 2017, when the Wilmington Star-News reported that a potentially cancer-causing PFAS chemical called GenX had fouled the drinking water for an estimated 250,000 people who draw their water from the Cape Fear River downstream of the Chemours plant in Bladen County.
Shortly afterward, the state Department of Environmental Quality learned that DuPont and Chemours, a new company spun off from DuPont in 2015, had been discharging GenXx and other PFAS chemicals into the river for three decades.
The DEQ’s Division of Air Quality also soon discovered that the chemicals were not only in high concentrations in the river, they were also being emitted into the air, falling with the rain, and contaminating hundreds of private drinking wells surrounding the plant.
Chemours says it is now providing bottled water to more than 600 households whose wells contain PFAS. More than 200 of those wells have levels of GenX measuring more than 140 parts per trillion. That’s the health guideline for drinking water the state set shortly after the contamination was found in the Cape Fear River.
Long doesn’t deny or sugarcoat his company’s past, but he says Chemours is now doing everything in its power to stop the pollution and clean up the plant site.
People living nearby say they have heard it all before…
Long has been the plant manager since February 2018, coming to North Carolina from Chemours’ Louisville Works site in Kentucky.
He said he understands the fear, anger and frustration felt by people living downstream of the plant or surrounding it. People who may have been drinking contaminated water for nearly 30 years. People who wonder whether the disease that killed their loved ones or their pets could have been caused by Chemours. People who still wonder whether it’s safe to eat the vegetables they grow in their gardens…
As part of the consent order with the state, Chemours is installing granular-activated carbon or reverse osmosis filtration systems in homes where wells have the highest levels of contamination. The order also calls for public water lines to be extended to homes where economically practicable.
Except for a few spikes, GenX in the Cape Fear River is now well below the state’s health advisory for drinking water.
But the DEQ is investigating high levels of GenX that is still showing up in rainwater, and work has only just begun on removing extremely high concentrations of GenX in the groundwater at the plant itself. Tests of one monitoring well detected GenX there at 61,300 parts per trillion. Documents show another well at the site measuring GenX at 2.9 million parts per trillion…
During the tour, Long was quick to point out that Chemours spent around $100 million to install three carbon adsorption systems and make other emissions improvements without being told to do so by the state.
That may be true, but DEQ documents show that the state was applying enormous pressure on Chemours to eliminate airborne emissions.
For example, in April 2018 the Division of Air Quality sent a notice addressed to Long saying it intended to modify Chemours’ air quality permit if the company didn’t eliminate all emissions of GenX compounds.
According to that notice, Chemours initially claimed it had released only 66.6 pounds of GenX into the air in the prior year. Months later, the company revised that assessment upward, saying it had released 594 pounds of the compound.
The division then did its own studies and came to a far different conclusion.
‘DAQ’s own calculations indicate that Chemours’ annual emissions of GenX compounds at the Fayetteville Works could exceed 2,700 pounds per year,’ according to the notice signed by division Director Mike Abraczinskas.
The notice said the DAQ planned to modify Chemours’ permit within 60 days if the company did not respond in writing and demonstrate that current or alternate conditions do not violate the state’s groundwater rules…
People living around the Chemours Fayetteville Works plant are fearful and furious.
In their view, Long’s contention that Chemours will become the world’s leader in stemming PFAS emissions is just another empty promise in a long history of deceit.
Many residents still await home filtration systems from Chemours, and many have entered class-action lawsuits filed against the company.
They point out that Chemours didn’t start cleaning up its PFAS mess until the DEQ and the consent order forced it to take action.
‘The ‘solutions’ they have put forth were forced on them and have been made in a condescending manner,’ Randa Dunn, who lives near the plant, said in an email. ‘No one believes they are sincere in stopping the pollution. The air emissions is only one part of our lives being contaminated by carcinogens.’…
Beth Markesino is the leader of the activist group North Carolina Stop GenX in our Water. She questions whether Chemours can be trusted to reveal all of the chemicals it is discharging. An estimated 5,000 different types of PFAS are thought to be in existence. Markesino said the group’s records show that the company discharges 50 PFAS chemicals in its wastewater.
‘Per our records, DEQ has yet to secure a list of chemicals manufactured or discharged as byproducts,’ Markesino said in an email. ‘How are we to know what list of chemicals will be cut from emissions, if we do not yet know the full equation of their PFAS chemical usage for 99 percent to cut?
‘… Our communities suffer while we wait for regulatory actions to catch up. Dupont and Chemours have withheld the health effects of these chemicals from our communities. They have chosen over and over again profit over people.’
Kathleen Gallagher is another leader of North Carolina Stop GenX in our Water who also has serious concerns about Chemours.
‘Until Chemours voluntarily steps up and covers medical monitoring, they have not done enough,’ Gallagher said in an email. ‘Chemours should be running water lines to every property and paying water bills as long as (the) owner retains property.
‘And, they need to publicly admit they are not heroes for adding thermal oxidizer or delivering water. That is the least they can (do) for breaking the law.’ ”