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Local Leaders: Chemours Unresponsive To Wilmington Meeting On GenX

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Aug 1, 2018
Nearly two weeks after local leaders sent a message to The Chemours Co. calling for company officials to come to Wilmington for a meeting, the company has not responded, officials said.

Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo and New Hanover County Commissioners Chairman Woody White each signed a letter that was sent to Chemours on July 19 to request a continuation of the dialogue and outreach over the status of efforts to remove GenX and related perfluorinated compounds (PFAS) from the Cape Fear River.

The local officials invited the company to meet directly with the community to “discuss progress made and future strategies to clean up our drinking water supply.”

On Wednesday, White said, “I have not heard anything from them since June 15, 2017, [when Chemours officials met with local leaders] and nothing in response to the letter that Bill and I signed ... days ago."

As of press time, Chemours had not responded to questions about the letter or whether the company had plans to respond to the local leaders.

According to the mayor's office, no communication had been received from Chemours as of Wednesday afternoon.

The company held a mid-June meeting in Fayetteville, a community information session, to share its plan to address emissions control at its Fayetteville Works facility in the short- and long-term, according to the company.

Saffo said he wants a similar meeting in Wilmington and feels that "since we are at the end of the Cape Fear River ... I think we're due an explanation." 

Although the company has pledged to invest $100 million in the facility to reduce emissions of GenX and other related compounds, the local leaders say they still have some unanswered questions.

"What are you doing to clean this thing up? How did it happen? How are you going to assure the citizens of this community that it will never happen again?" Saffo said.

The Wilmington, Delaware-based Chemours operates out of the Fayetteville Works facility in Bladen County near the Cape Fear River. That facility is the source of GenX and other related chemical compounds that have been found in the drinking water supply of Wilmington-area residents.

The June 2017 meeting White mentioned was held behind closed doors and was the first and only publicized trip company officials made to the Wilmington area. Local leaders had requested the company hold a public meeting in Wilmington days later, but those requests were not answered.

“Not surprisingly, we have not received a response,” White said of the July letter. “It increases my frustration with the company’s unwillingness to explain to our community the many unanswered questions that remain.”

The issue has since been surrounded by lawsuits, as well as state investigations and litigation.

“The fact that lawsuits remain and regulatory issues impending does not mean that the company isn’t allowed to stand up and speak freely on what it knows and what its predecessor, Dupont, has done over the last many years,” White said.

Chemours was spun off of Dupont in 2015 and has since pulled itself out of debt, making the Fortune 500 list just two years later.

White said he would like to know that before the switch was made from C8 to GenX, at what level did Dupont discharge unregulated contaminants into the Cape Fear River and "whether or not there were releases of C8 into our environment."

Another question left unanswered, White said, is what records did the company keep of chemicals and studies over the years. 

"Sometimes there is a legal way of doing things and the right way of doing things. And the right way would be for this company to come here and answer any and all questions that is posed to it by its leaders and its citizens in a structured and civil way," White said. "No one is looking for an unproductive, ugly scene. We want information. We think the company has it." 

"We're still fearful of what the heck's out there. They need to come down here and directly talk to the citizens," Saffo said.

Although a meeting with Chemours is still up in the air, regional EPA officials have reached out to the city about traveling to Wilmington this month to visit with local leaders "in an effort to keep an open dialogue and provide an update from EPA," according to an email from Tony McEwen, assistant to the city manager for legislative affairs, obtained from New Hanover County's public server.

In the email, McEwen said he wanted to extend an invitation to White to the potential EPA meeting and talks were ongoing to schedule the meeting Aug. 15. A call to McEwen to ask about the August meeting was not immediately returned Wednesday afternoon.

White said Wednesday afternoon that the meeting was on his schedule.

Cece Nunn contributed to this report. 
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