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Cape Fear River Watch Files Lawsuit Against NCDEQ Over GenX

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Jul 13, 2018

Cape Fear River Watch is suing a state agency claiming it should use its authority to require The Chemours Co. to immediately stop all emissions and discharges of GenX, and other chemically related compounds, which have been found in the treated drinking water of area residents.

The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) filed the suit against the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) on behalf of the locally-based grassroots nonprofit organization in New Hanover County Superior Court on Friday, according to a news release.

“What we have here is a situation that is really unprecedented levels of pollution covering a huge portion of the state. So what we are seeking with this … is an order that stops the company from continuing that pollution until they can get the proper controls in place and essentially stop making the problem worse,” Geoff Gisler, senior attorney with SELC, said Friday.

Gisler said it's the first such action the law center has filed regarding the region's GenX situation in the local court.

The Petition for Judicial Review, filed in local superior court Friday, is an administrative lawsuit, Gisler said.

Officials with the SELC said in the release that on June 15, NCDEQ denied Cape Fear River Watch’s request for a declaratory ruling asking the agency to use its authority to stop pollution from Chemours’ facility, yet “affirmed that Chemours and DuPont have caused widespread air and water pollution and immediate action is necessary to protect public health."

Cape Fear River Watch filed the request earlier this year. The groups are now appealing that June denial in court, officials said.

In the recent filing of the lawsuit, the center argues that NCDEQ has the authority and obligation to order Chemours to stop its release of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, including GenX, "because the company’s ongoing contamination of air and water is causing imminent danger to people’s health and public safety."

The center claims that "NCDEQ is required by law to act in times of emergency to protect the health and safety of people," officials said in the release.

GenX is an unregulated compound linked to operations at Chemours’ Fayetteville Works Facility in Bladen County.

Scientific testing, including those conducted by NCDEQ, have shown the chemical to be in the air, groundwater and river water, in the areas that surround the plant in Bladen County and down the Cape Fear River to Wilmington and surrounding communities.

The Wilmington, Delaware-based Chemours announced in May it would make a $100 million investment into its Fayetteville Works facility in a long-term plan to reduce emissions of GenX and other related compounds. About the same time, SELC announced it had sent a notice of intent to sue Chemours, citing violations of the Clean Water Act and Toxic Substances Control Act, on behalf of Cape Fear River Watch.

"The state needs to stop immediately Chemours’ toxic pollution of the air and water that families and communities from Fayetteville to Wilmington depend on,” Gisler said in the release. “Every day that goes by, Chemours puts more toxic pollution into the air and water that accumulates in our rivers, land and groundwater. Chemours’ harmful pollution must end now.”

NCDEQ officials said in an email Friday that they are still reviewing the lawsuit.

The center claims Chemours and DuPont (Chemours spun off from DuPont in 2015) knowingly polluted North Carolina’s water sources with PFAS compounds for nearly four decades. It also claims those chemicals caused "widespread and dangerous contamination of groundwater and surface waters."

“The people of North Carolina depend on DEQ to protect our health and safety in times of emergency,” Dana Sargent, president of the Cape Fear River Watch Board of Directors, said in the release. “This is one of those times.”

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