DEQ, Chemours agree to further PFAS control measures; CFPUA ‘surprised’ by proposal

DEQ, Chemours agree to further PFAS control measures
Updated: Aug. 13, 2020 at 3:48 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and Chemours have agreed to additional PFAS reduction measures that will help control groundwater-related impacts of the toxic chemicals from Chemours’ Fayetteville Works site.

“These actions address more than 90% of the PFAS entering the Cape Fear River through groundwater from the residual contamination on the site,” the DEQ stated in a news release announcing the agreement.

Moving forward, Chemours is required to treat four identified ‘seeps’ which account for more than half of the contaminated groundwater reaching the river in two phases:

  • The interim measures to filter PFAS at an efficiency of at least 80% from the first of the four seeps will go into effect starting by Mid-November – with all four completed by April 2021.
  • The permanent measure is the construction of a subsurface barrier wall approximately 1.5 miles long and groundwater extraction system that will remove at least 99% of PFAS to be completed by March 2023.

Chemours is also required to treat on-site stormwater that is adding residual pollution to the river with a capture and treatment system that must remove at least 99% of PFAS.

  • Failure to meet the schedules or achieve the removal goals will result in financial penalties, including:
  • Failure to meet the construction schedule for the interim measures will result in fines of $5,000 per day for the first 14 days and $10,000/day until construction is complete.
  • Failure to meet the barrier wall installation schedule results in a $150,000 fine followed by $20,000 per week until installation is complete.
  • Failure to meet the barrier wall’s 95% mass loading goal in the initial demonstration results in a $500,000 fine, with a $100,000 fine for failure to meet any of the four subsequent demonstrations.

“Today’s actions lay out exactly how Chemours will clean up the residual contamination they’ve caused that continues to impact communities along the Cape Fear River,” said DEQ Secretary Michael S. Regan. “This level of action is unprecedented and continues to build a foundation for the Attorney General’s broader investigation of PFAS in North Carolina. As a state, we will not wait for action from the federal government to provide relief for our communities and protect our natural resources.”

Chemours stated in a news release: “When viewed in their totality, the actions being taken by Chemours in North Carolina to address and control PFAS emissions from our Fayetteville Works site and remediate existing environmental matters far exceed known actions taken by any other company in the state.”

The newly-agreed upon requirements will be added to the original consent order from 2019. The public will be about to provide comments for 30 days which DEQ will consider before presenting the consent order addendum to Bladen County Superior Court.

“This is a huge win for the Cape Fear River and the people who depend on it. This plan will ensure that contaminated groundwater, streams, and runoff no longer pollute the river and don’t reach communities downstream,” said Kemp Burdette, Cape Fear Riverkeeper. “Along with a reduction of PFAS in air emissions from the facility and a complete elimination of process water discharges into the river that were part of the earlier consent order, these commitments get us closer to a goal of a clean Cape Fear.”

Following the near-simultaneous announcement of the addendum by DEQ, Chemours, and the Cape Fear Riverwatch, a statement from Cape Fear Public Utility Authority said it came as a “surprise” to its staff and attorneys.

CFPUA officials claim they were not given an advance copy of the proposed changes despite being in ongoing discussions with the state regarding Chemours’ consent order. Additionally, no mention was made of the addendum during those discussions, CFPUA says.

“It is disappointing that we and our customers have once again been excluded by the State from these discussions about a subject that is of vital interest to our community,” said CFPUA Executive Director Jim Flechtner.

“We have seen no evidence this or any of the steps proposed so far by Chemours will sufficiently improve water quality to the same level that the State has set as the standard for private well owners around Chemours’ site,” Flechtner said. “We continue to be frustrated that our customers continue to be treated differently than people near the plant.”

CFPUA said it will provide additional comment on the details of the proposal in the coming days once it has had a chance to review it.

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