NC fines Che­mours, re­quires com­pany to sup­ply drink­ing wa­ter

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - News - BY AB­BIE BEN­NETT aben­[email protected]­sob­

North Carolina en­vi­ron­men­tal of­fi­cials an­nounced a plan Wed­nes­day to fine Che­mours $13 mil­lion and re­quire the chem­i­cal com­pany to pro­vide per­ma­nent re­place­ment drink­ing wa­ter.

The pro­posed plan or, “con­sent or­der,” be­tween the North Carolina De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Qual­ity, Cape Fear River Watch and the chem­i­cal com­pany is in­tended as a res­o­lu­tion af­ter con­tam­i­nants from the Che­mours plant in Fayet­teville were dis­charged into lo­cal wa­ter sup­plies.

The or­der re­quires Che­mours to dra­mat­i­cally re­duce its GenX air emis­sions, pro­vide re­place­ment drink­ing wa­ter and pay the fine to the DEQ.

Wilm­ing­ton, Del.-based Che­mours Co. has faced ques­tions for years about GenX, an un­reg­u­lated chem­i­cal with un­known health risks, among other con­tam­i­nants, that flowed from the com­pany’s plant near Fayet­teville into the Cape Fear River.

“Peo­ple de­serve ac­cess to clean drink­ing wa­ter and this or­der is a sig­nif­i­cant step in our on­go­ing ef­fort to pro­tect North Carolina com­mu­ni­ties and the en­vi­ron­ment,” DEQ Sec­re­tary Michael S. Re­gan said in a state­ment. “To­day’s an­nounce­ment ad­vances the science and reg­u­la­tion of PFAS com­pounds and gives North Carolina fam­i­lies much-needed re­lief. I ap­pre­ci­ate the hard work of DEQ’s ded­i­cated and tal­ented staff to help achieve this re­sult.”

Un­der the or­der, Che­mours must pay a $12 mil­lion civil penalty along with an ad­di­tional $1 mil­lion “for in­ves­tiga­tive costs,” the state’s re­lease said.

The chem­i­cal com­pany could end up pay­ing more if it fails to meet con­di­tions and dead­lines in the pro­posed or­der.

Among many re­quire­ments, the or­der states Che­mours must:

Pro­vide per­ma­nent

drink­ing wa­ter “in the form of ei­ther a pub­lic wa­ter­line con­nec­tion or whole-build­ing fil­tra­tion sys­tems for those with drink­ing wa­ter wells with GenX” above a cer­tain level;

“Pro­vide, in­stall and

main­tain” spe­cial drink­ing wa­ter sys­tems for well own­ers with com­bined polyflu­o­roalkyl sub­stances (PFAS) amounts above a cer­tain level;

“Re­duce air emis­sions

of GenX through con­trol tech­nol­ogy and with a sched­ule of re­duc­tion mile­stones;”

Con­tinue to cap­ture all

its waste­water for off-site dis­posal;

“Con­duct health stud

ies to de­ter­mine po­ten­tial health risks as­so­ci­ated with re­leas­ing PFAS into the en­vi­ron­ment’”

Sam­ple and retest

drink­ing wa­ter wells in ar­eas with el­e­vated chem­i­cal con­tam­i­nants linked to the com­pany;

Sub­mit and im­ple­ment

a plan to sam­ple all waste­water and stormwa­ter streams to iden­tify any ad­di­tional con­tam­i­nants;

Sub­mit a plan to the

state to re­duce chem­i­cal con­tam­i­nants in ground­wa­ter along the Cape Fear River “by at least 75 per­cent;”

“No­tify and coor

di­nate with down­stream pub­lic wa­ter util­i­ties” when there is the po­ten­tial for a dis­charge of con­tam­i­nants such as GenX into the Cape Fear River above healthy lev­els.

The South­ern En­vi­ron­men­tal Law Cen­ter signed the pro­posed or­der on be­half of the Cape Fear River Watch and said the fine would be the largest “ever levied by the N.C. De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Qual­ity.”

“This agree­ment starts us down the path to a cleaner Cape Fear and safer drink­ing wa­ter by keep­ing Che­mours’ air pol­lu­tion and con­tam­i­nated wa­ter from leav­ing its site,” Ge­off Gisler, se­nior at­tor­ney for the SELC, who rep­re­sents the Cape Fear River Watch in the case said in an email to The News & Ob­server on Wed­nes­day evening. “Af­ter decades of unchecked pol­lu­tion from the Che­mours’ fa­cil­ity, this or­der is a step for­ward in restor­ing the Cape Fear and pro­tect­ing com­mu­ni­ties and fam­i­lies down­stream.”

If the pro­posed or­der is ac­cepted by the court af­ter a 30-day pub­lic com­ment pe­riod, the or­der will re­solve the NCDEQ’s pend- ing law­suit against the chem­i­cal com­pany for vi­o­lat­ing North Carolina wa­ter qual­ity laws.

Cape Fear River Watch also agreed to dis­miss its fed­eral law­suit against Che­mours for vi­o­lat­ing the Clean Wa­ter Act and Toxic Sub­stances Con­trol Act, the SELC said in a news re­lease Wed­nes­day.

The or­der would not, how­ever, set­tle any other law­suits against Che­mours by cit­i­zens or wa­ter util­i­ties in the state.

“Com­mu­ni­ties along the Cape Fear River have been ter­ri­bly wronged by the con­tam­i­na­tion of our drink­ing wa­ter,” Cape Fear River­keeper Kemp Bur­dette said in an emailed state­ment to The News & Ob­server Wed­nes­day. “We’ve been work­ing to pro­tect these com­mu­ni­ties since the news of Che­mours pol­lu­tion first broke. To­day we can breathe a sigh of re­lief. Mov­ing for­ward, we will be watch­ing closely to en­sure that Che­mours does all that they have com­mit­ted to do in this con­sent or­der.”

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