The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reversed its approval for Chemours to import GenX into North Carolina.
The agency announced its decision today, prompting quick responses from both state officials and the company.
“It’s good that the EPA reversed this decision and I’m grateful for their quick response,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement. “We have been working for years in North Carolina to force the cleanup of forever chemicals to help ensure clean water, and companies like Chemours have made this effort more difficult.”
Chemours in a release this afternoon said it does not discharge GenX into the Cape Fear River through its recycling process at its Fayetteville Works facility in Bladen County and that a “calculation error” had incorrectly identified the amount the company wants to import.
“Our reclamation and recycling process for [GenX] is circular and more environmentally friendly than manufacturing larger quantities of new compound,” the release states. “We identified and acknowledged a calculation error in the applications to the Dutch ILT that we proactively disclosed to US regulators. The amount being imported is in fact far below the levels approved by EPA in the original permit. We are working to correct the information and will continue to engage with authorities on the path forward.”
The EPA’s decision in October to sign off on Chemours importing as much as 4 million pounds of GenX from its plant in the Netherlands sparked outrage from state and local officials.
GenX is one of thousands of manmade chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, and is specific to Chemours’ Fayetteville Works plant.
Chemours is under a Consent Order with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and the nonprofit Cape Fear River Watch to drastically reduce the amount of PFAS it discharges into the environment, including the Cape Fear River, which is the drinking water source for tens of thousands of people. The company is also being held responsible for PFAS contamination in private wells throughout the Cape Fear region, which includes at least eight counties.
The EPA made its decision to reverse course based on information provided by DEQ, according to a department release.
“We appreciate that the EPA heard the concerns shared by the Governor and the residents directly affected by PFAS contamination from Chemours,” NCDEQ Secretary Elizabeth Biser said in a statement. “North Carolina is committed to reducing PFAS pollution and today’s reversal aligns with that goal.”
The company stated that it had invested hundreds of millions of dollars in emissions controls at its Fayetteville plant. “Chemours responsibly manufactures critical products that support national and Biden Administration priorities like American manufacturing of semiconductors and decarbonizing the energy sector. Our products and our actions promote a more sustainable future, and we will continue to deliver on our commitment to reduce our environmental footprint.”
In September, experts appointed to the United Nations sent letters to Chemours, Corteva and DuPont de Nemours criticizing their use of PFAS.
Those UN experts said the companies likely violated the human rights of residents in the Cape Fear region.
Letters were also sent to the governments of the Netherlands and the United States accusing regulators of failing to protect human health and the environment.