Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances

The Social Discovery of a Class of Emerging Contaminants

Fayetteville Works Plant — Fayetteville, Bladen County, Robeson County, Bucks County, Brunswick County, Cumberland County, Pender County, Wilmington, North Carolina

Suspected contamination source: DuPont/Chemours’ Fayetteville Works plant (WRAL, 2006)ncmap

In 2000, 3M Co., the former sole producer of PFOA (or C8), announced that it would phase out the manufacture of PFOA after being pressured by regulators, residents, and law suits near their factories in Alabama and Minnesota. 3M began to replace the compound with other PFAS chemicals that were supposedly more environmentally friendly.

Instead of following 3M’s example, Dupont finished building its sprawling Fayetteville Works plant and began producing PFOA there in 2002. DuPont informed state officials of testing which indicated that PFOA had seeped into groundwater under the plant just 3 months after production began. The public did not find out until May 2005, upon which DuPont denied responsibility for the contamination (Barnes, 2018).

Environmental groups then began to organize, calling for immediate EPA investigation and action by state representatives. Activists and environmentalists formed the North Carolina C8 Working Group, which began independently sampling the Cape Fear River near Fayetteville Works in December.  In 2006, North Carolina lowered its PFOA water threshold from 150 to 2 parts per billion. As of 2006, DuPont’s Fayetteville plant was the only American site producing the chemical perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA (Montgomery, 2006).

In 2005, the EPA fined DuPont $16.5 million for knowingly contaminating groundwater near its Washington Works plant in West Va with PFOA despite understanding the health risks associated with the chemical in 1981. A month later, DuPont and other companies agreed to reduce 95% of PFOA production by 2010, and get rid of it altogether by 2015. In 2009, the EPA lowered its provisional health advisory for PFOA to 400 parts per trillion (equivalent to 0.4 parts per billion). The same year, DuPont began to replace PFOA with the closely related GenX chemical, claiming it to be less persistent in the environment.

To understand the events that have followed the 2009 introduction of GenX and its subsequent contamination of the Cape Fear area, see this timeline by WRAL.

ncmap2
NC DEQ Map of surface and groundwater systems affected by GenX contamination

Additional Resources

Media Coverage:

Full citations are available on the second page of the full contamination site tracker. We ask for your additions, changes, questions and comments be sent to pfasproject@gmail.com.

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