The state Department of Environmental Quality directed Chemours by letter Wednesday to expand the scope and detail of its proposed interim sampling and drinking water plan for New Hanover, Brunswick, Columbus, and Pender counties.
“The interim plan is insufficient and does not include the necessary steps to adequately determine the extent of Chemours’ contamination in the downstream communities,” said DEQ Secretary Elizabeth S. Biser in a statement. “Chemours must contact residents directly, sample more wells and proceed more quickly to address contaminated drinking water.”
Chemours submitted its interim sampling plan Feb. 1, in response to the department’s Nov. 3, 2021, notice, which states that DEQ had determined that Chemours is responsible for groundwater contamination in New Hanover County and potentially Pender, Columbus, and Brunswick counties. DEQ directed Chemours to expand the off-site assessment required under the 2019 Consent Order to determine the extent of the contamination, and conduct sampling of private drinking water wells to identify residents who may be eligible for replacement drinking water supplies.
DEQ identified seven areas in the interim sampling and drinking water plan as deficient, and is requiring Chemours to submit a revised plan within 30 days. The revisions must include, but are not limited to the following:
- Expanding eligibility criteria of private wells to be sampled.
- Starting sampling within 45 days.
- Directly contacting eligible private well owners.
- Using a data-driven approach to broaden private well sampling, not limited to 200 per county and not limited to residents who have requested sampling.
- Including other property types for sampling where a private well is used as the primary source of drinking water, including schools, day care centers, churches, mobile home parks and others.
- Providing bottled water to impacted residents within three days of receipt of sampling results and providing replacement drinking water supplies as required in Paragraphs 19 and 20 of the consent order.
- Describing a proposed step-out or other approach to drinking water sampling based on the received results.
Residents in the four counties of the lower Cape Fear River basin can request well sampling by calling 910-678-1100.
The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners and Public Health Director David Howard wrote letters to NCDEQ in February expressing concerns about Chemours’ proposed plan.
“We appreciate NCDEQ’s response back to Chemours today and that they listened to our concerns here in New Hanover County,” said Board of Commissioners Chair Julia Olson-Boseman in a statement Wednesday.
“The revisions they are requiring for Chemours’ sampling plan in New Hanover County will help ensure our residents receive similar protections as those close to the plant who are already under the consent order,” she continued. “It’s what our community deserves, so this is a positive step forward.”
Cape Fear Public Utility Authority Board Chairman Wesley P. Corder said in a statement, “The proposal Chemours offered on February 1 to assess and remedy its PFAS contamination of New Hanover County’s groundwater was wholly inadequate. We appreciate the diligence of the leadership and staff of New Hanover County and NCDEQ in insisting that Chemours start owning up to its responsibilities to the residents of New Hanover County.”
Chemours provided to Coastal Review Thursday the following response:
“Chemours is reviewing the Department’s letter regarding our Interim Four Counties Sampling and Drinking Water plan and will continue our ongoing discussions with the Department on the matter. We note that many of the agency’s comments are addressed in the separate Framework to Assess plan submitted to the Department.
“Further, Chemours has already begun sampling in the Four Counties region under the Four Counties Sampling and Drinking Water plan for eligible residents or other entities that meet the identified criteria and the drinking water program is not limited to just residential; it may include schools, churches, businesses, or mobile home parks that use private wells as their primary drinking water source.
“Eligible properties and tenants in the four-county area of New Hanover, Brunswick, Columbus and Pender Counties interested in testing of their drinking water well can contact Chemours at (910) 678-1100.”