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NCDEQ Makes Revisions To Chemours Proposed Consent Order

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Feb 20, 2019
The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality announced Wednesday that changes have been made to the state's proposed consent order with The Chemours Co., which includes a requirement that addresses contaminants downstream from the company's Fayetteville Works site, among other revisions.

NCDEQ filed the revised consent order in Bladen County Superior Court and asked the court to enter the order, which will hold Chemours accountable for per- and poly-fluoroalkyl (PFAS) contamination, including GenX in the Cape Fear region, according to a news release.

NCDEQ officials stated in the release that with the revisions, if accepted by the court, Chemours would be required to report air emissions of GenX compounds each month; measure and analyze Chemours’ contribution to PFAS contamination at downstream public utilities’ raw water intakes; submit an analysis of PFAS contamination in river sediment; remove 99 percent of the contamination of the surface water and groundwater from an old outfall at the site; provide downstream public utilities with an accelerated plan to reduce PFAS contamination in the Cape Fear River; provide effective systems to treat drinking water fountains and sinks in public buildings and ensure that filtration systems are operating properly and are maintained for a minimum of 20 years.

These revisions are on top of other requirements that were part of the existing consent order proposals, including notifying downstream public water utilities when an event at the facility has the potential to cause a discharge of GenX compounds into the Cape Fear River above 140 parts per trillion, according to the release.

NCDEQ officials said Wednesday that all parties have agreed to it, but a date for the revised order to go before a judge to be heard has not been set.

“People affected by GenX and PFAS pollution in the Cape Fear River basin deserve real relief, and this order provides that relief,” NCDEQ Secretary Michael Regan said in the release. “We listened to the comments from the community, from leaders and from public utilities and have established a strong path forward to protect water quality and public health.”

The order was signed by Regan, representatives of Chemours, the Cape Fear River Watch and its counsel of record, the Southern Environmental Law Center, stated the release.

The revised order would resolve NCDEQ’s pending lawsuit against Chemours for violating state water quality laws. The revision also includes language regarding Cape Fear River Watch's intent to dismiss its federal lawsuit against Chemours for violations of the Clean Water Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Cape Fear Riverkeeper Kemp Burdette commented on the revised consent order in a news release Wednesday from the Southern Environmental Law Center.

In that release, Burdette said, "This consent order is an important first step in stopping pollution from leaving the Chemours site and entering the Cape Fear River, groundwater, and the air. We are committed to seeing this process through until Chemours can prove that they have cleaned up the mess they have created."

The original order was proposed in November with a list of requirements for the company. The changes to the order in a revised document incorporate the comments from NCDEQ's public comment period on the proposal, which ended Jan. 7, said Megan Thorpe, spokeswoman for NCDEQ.

More than more than 380 public comments were received since November, stated the release.

During that comment period, the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority filed a motion to intervene in December state's case against Chemours, seeking to intervene in the lawsuit because the utility felt the proposed consent order was "not adequate to protect CFPUA’s interests or remedy CFPUA’s harms caused by Chemours’ PFAS releases into the Cape Fear River."

A ruling in CFPUA's motion to intervene is still pending, CFPUA officials said in a statement Wednesday. 

In that statement, CFPUA officials said that it is reviewing the revised consent order.

“We look forward to working with our partners at NCDEQ to determine the best way to ensure our community has access to safe drinking water and that polluters such as Chemours are held to account, legally and financially,” said CFPUA Executive Director Jim Flechtner, in the release.

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