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Council Set To Consider Opposition To Chemours Consent Order

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Jan 18, 2019
Wilmington City Council is set to consider a resolution Tuesday opposing the state’s proposed consent order with The Chemours Co., according to the city’s agenda.

The resolution states that the consent order “denies equal protection under law to Wilmington water customers by guaranteeing clean drinking water to upstream users, while leaving downstream users with no state regulatory assistance.”

It also states, among other points, that the order “potentially releases Chemours of liability for downstream pollution of groundwater, sediment, and stormwater runoff.”

The proposed consent order, which the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) released to the public the day before Thanksgiving, laid out several potential requirements for the company, should it gain a judge's approval. The proposed order involved the Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of Cape Fear River Watch and NCDEQ, and council representing Chemours.

When the public comment period on the order was planned to end in December, NCDEQ extended comments through Jan. 7.

NCDEQ officials said Friday that the public comments submitted on the proposed order are still under review and that a court date to has not been set for a judge to hear the consent order in Bladen County Superior Court.

The city's resolution was released Friday with council’s full public agenda. The meeting is scheduled to take place Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

New Hanover County Commissioners adopted a resolution on the consent order Dec. 17 during their last meeting of the year. The resolution was made during the state’s public comment period and was aimed at improving the draft order.

Both the county's and the city's resolutions address concerns of the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority.

The utility and its leader Jim Flechtner, questioned the effectiveness of the order to protect the drinking water of Wilmington-area residents, in the week after it was first released. CFPUA has since filed a motion to intervene in the state's proposed order with Chemours.

The motion was filed Dec. 20. CFPUA officials said at the time that the motion was filed because, as proposed, the consent order did not adequately protect the utility's interests or remedy its harms caused by Chemours’ per- and poly-fluoroalkyl (PFAS) releases to the Cape Fear River.

The state agency has defended the parameters of the consent order in its ability to protect communities downstream from the release of GenX and other related PFAS contaminants from Chemous' Fayetteville Works facility in Bladen County and released a fact sheet on the consent order along with a notice of the public comment period extension.

Another public comment period on a draft air permit for Chemours opened up Friday and will run until 5 p.m. Feb. 22. According to a news release, the draft permit is for Chemours to install and operate a thermal oxidizer/scrubber system for emission control at its Fayetteville Works facility. 

"The system will significantly reduce the emissions of PFAS, GenX and other pollutants coming from the facility," stated the release.

Along with the public comment period, a public meeting and public hearing will be held Feb. 18 at the Bladen Community College Auditorium.

Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect that the county’s resolution on the consent order was aimed at the public comment period to improve the draft order.
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