The Environmental Protection Agency said it will decide within 90 days on an Oct. 14, 2020, petition to require Chemours to test the health effects of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, under the Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA, Center for Environmental Health announced Thursday.
Center for Environmental Health, Cape Fear River Watch, Clean Cape Fear, Democracy Green, the NC Black Alliance and Toxic Free NC are the six North Carolina groups that submitted the “Petition to require health and environmental testing under the Toxic Substances Control Act on certain PFAS manufactured by Chemours In Fayetteville, North Carolina” initially denied in January by the Trump Administration.
The testing is to provide Cape Fear River basin communities with information on the health impacts of decades of pollution from PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals,” released into the environment from the Chemours Fayetteville Works facility, officials said.
“The PFAS industry is playing a toxic shell game,” said Michael Green, CEO of Center for Environmental Health.
“They use a chemical until it’s proven harmful to our health and our environment, and then they switch to a very similar chemical that is less well-studied,’ he continued in a statement. “We are encouraged that EPA may be finally willing to force Chemours to take responsibility for the human health consequences of years of putting unstudied PFAS into the Cape Fear watershed. The financial interests of industry should no longer trump protection of front-line communities.”
Nearly 300,000 residents of Cape Fear communities have been exposed for more than 40 years to PFAS-contaminated drinking water, and several PFAS have been found in their blood. There are no health effects data on the great majority of the 54 PFAS, and available studies on the remainder are inadequate, according to the Center for Environmental Health.
“For decades, our communities have suffered silently from PFAS contaminated water. All the while, polluting corporations have continued to profit from our pain. Our dedicated team of community groups, legal counsel, and scientists have provided EPA with the tools to clearly and swiftly act to save our people. It’s straightforward: approve our petition, clean up our communities and make the polluter pay,” said La’Meshia Whittington, NC Black Alliance, in a statement.
The group’s petition, under section 21 of Toxic Substances Control Act, is asking for testing orders on 54 PFAS released into the environment by Chemours. Several PFAS have been detected in the Cape Fear River, public drinking water systems, private wells, ambient air, groundwater and local food sources.
“EPA’s commitment to decide the petition within 90 days is an important first step but now it needs to make Chemours foot the bill for research that will enable Cape Fear residents to understand the impact of PFAS pollution is having on their health,” said Connor Kippe of Toxic Free NC.
Michal Freedhoff, assistant administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, informed the six groups in writing that the EPA would reconsider the Jan. 7 denial of the petition by the Trump Administration and decide within 90 days whether to grant the petition and require testing.
The groups filed a lawsuit six months ago in the Northern District of California Federal District Court challenging the petition denial and reached out to EPA Administrator Michael Regan asking him to overturn the petition denial and give it the go-ahead.
The EPA also committed in a stipulation jointly filed with the court to hold in abeyance, or temporary suspension, for 90 days the March 3 lawsuit challenging the petition denial while EPA works toward decision on the petition.
In a June 16 letter to Regan, congress members Richard Hudson, Deborah Ross, David Price, Kathy Manning, G.K. Butterfield, Alma Adams and Madison Cawthorn wrote: “We believe that Cape Fear River communities and North Carolinians must be informed of the health consequences of long-term PFAS exposure and that Chemours has a responsibility under TSCA to fund the research necessary to address their concerns. As members of Congress, the health, welfare, and safety of our constituents are a shared priority. We urge you to exercise your authority under TSCA to hold Chemours accountable and order the testing necessary to understand the human health effects of PFAS contamination on the people in the Cape Fear River area.”