Updated to include comments from New Hanover County
The state is requiring Chemours to take more action to address GenX and PFAS contamination into the Cape Fear River from the Fayetteville Works facility, especially that affecting private well owners.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, which includes GenX, are widely used, man-made toxins often called “forever chemicals” that break down very slowly over time and build up in humans, animals and the environment, according to the EPA. Studies show that exposure to some of these chemicals may be linked to harmful health effects.
First, Chemours must assess the extent of contamination in communities downstream, to include well sampling and provision of replacement drinking water supplies, North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality officials said Wednesday.
Second, Chemours is required to review existing well sampling in communities surrounding the Fayetteville Works facility to determine additional eligibility for whole-house filtration and public water, in light of the revised Toxicity Assessment for GenX from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“The contamination from Chemours extends down the Cape Fear River into multiple communities and Chemours’ actions to address that contamination must reach those communities as well,” said DEQ Secretary Elizabeth S. Biser in a statement. “DEQ will continue to take the necessary steps to provide relief to affected North Carolinians as the science and regulations require.”
Copies of the notifications to Chemours are online.
DEQ officials said the department has determined that Chemours is responsible for contamination of groundwater monitoring wells and water supply wells in New Hanover County and possibly Pender, Columbus, and Brunswick counties.
“Chemours is required to expand the off-site assessment required under the 2019 Consent Order to determine the extent of the contamination. Chemours must also conduct sampling of private drinking water wells to identify residents who may be eligible for replacement drinking water supplies. Chemours must submit plans to DEQ for approval,” officials said.
Regarding the second action, officials said Chemours had been advised that the EPA will be releasing a federal drinking water health advisory level for GenX in the coming months. The 2019 Consent Order requires Chemours to provide replacement permanent drinking water to private wells with “detections of GenX compounds in exceedance of 140 ng/L (nanogram per liter), or any applicable health advisory, whichever is lower.”
In advance of a likely EPA health advisory level below 140 nanogram per liter, DEQ is requiring Chemours to review existing well sampling data to identify residents who would be entitled to public water or whole house filtration under a revised health advisory level. Chemours must revise the assessment of public water feasibility for all affected residents under a lower health advisory level.
DEQ is also requiring Chemours to create a plan to transition residents who have previously received reverse osmosis systems based on GenX results to either public water or whole-house filtrations systems as appropriate under a lower GenX health advisory level.
“I want to thank DEQ and Secretary Biser for taking these steps to require action from Chemours so they take responsibility for the PFAS contamination they have caused in our community,” said New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chair Julia Olson-Boseman in a statement.
“It is important for our residents to be provided with the same protections as those who are close to the Chemours plant, and that means testing and monitoring the groundwater wells in our county and providing bottled water and then a permanent filtration or connection to a public water supply if elevated PFAS are detected,” she said. “New Hanover County has advocated to be included in the Consent Order, and today’s actions are a positive step towards that. We will continue to do all we can to support DEQ’s efforts and ensure our residents have access to safe drinking water.”
Lisa Randall, regional communications lead for Chemours, provided the following statement on behalf of the company:
“Chemours is a part of the solution to addressing PFAS contamination in North Carolina, and we will continue working with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ), as we have been for several years, to move forward with efforts to address PFAS found in the environment related to our Fayetteville Works manufacturing site. We have worked closely with NCDEQ on implementation of on-site and off-site programs, including a private well sampling program, as part of the consent order agreement between Chemours, Cape Fear River Watch and the state of North Carolina.
“We are continuing to review the NCDEQ correspondence we just received and will follow-up with the agency for further clarification of their correspondence.”