As much as we’ve wailed and gnashed teeth over the industrial chemical GenX in our drinking water, we said from the outset we did not want to see Chemours shut down.
But because of the chemical giant’s apparent inability to contain fluorochemical compounds, state officials must take whatever measures are necessary to immediately shut down any Fayetteville Works operations that are resulting in illegal discharges into the Cape Fear River.
Chemours, DuPont and Kuraray America produce various chemical products at the industrial site, located along the Cape Fear. The three companies provide hundreds of well-paying jobs in the area, provide needed tax revenue and ultimately help produce items that we use every day.
We are not against the chemical industry. We are, however, against any business – or person or government body, for that matter – that continually violates laws put in place to protect our health and the environment, specifically public waters.
For 30 or so years, Chemours (previously DuPont) has violated those laws by dumping into the Cape Fear River chemicals for which it had no discharge permit. When the violations were exposed last June by this newspaper, Chemours shrugged it off, mainly by refusing to answer basic questions, and otherwise communicate with the folks who have been ingesting the toxic chemical cocktail the Fortune 500 company dumps into the Cape Fear River.
After a bipartisan outcry from area residents and government bodies – not to mention a variety of legal actions – Chemours fessed up and promised it would stop what effectively is the tainting of our primary source of drinking water. (Granted, we still do not know the extent of the pollution or possible health effects, if any, of the unregulated chemicals the plants produce. When it comes to the water we drink, that’s a pretty big – and, we believe, unacceptable – unknown).
Chemours assured state and local officials that the chemicals would be contained in a closed-loop system, with the leftovers shipped out of state for proper disposal. What has become evident, however, is that the plants at the Fayetteville Works site (they share wastewater systems) are not capable of keeping fluorochemical compounds out of the river.
That said, the Wilmington City Council has joined with the New Hanover County commissioners and CFPUA board to request that the state require that “all tenants of the Fayetteville Works site cease operations that result in the production of fluorochemical compounds, due to their inability to operate without discharging fluorochemical compounds into the Cape Fear River.”
We encourage every governing body in our region, along with every civic and business organization, nonprofit group and house of worship to endorse the same resolution and convey it by certified mail to the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, the governor, and to each of the region’s state legislators.
Shutting down those manufacturing processes is the only option we see at this time. Later, if the plants can get their acts together and follow the law, they would be welcome to come back and apply for the proper permit. Until then, they have no right to continue to foul our water.
Meanwhile, we want to make this very clear: If whoever has the authority – be it DEQ, Gov. Roy Cooper or the General Assembly – to once and for all stop this threat fails to act, they are as guilty of intentional neglect as the polluters themselves.
Chemours has demonstrated that it either cannot or will not do right by the people of Southeastern North Carolina. Therefore, we are no longer expecting or asking the company to act.
It’s now completely up to state leaders to perform their fundamental duty of protecting North Carolina’s citizens, which means using whatever means necessary to shut down the specific operations that are damaging our quality of life, likely hurting our economy, and – we will assume until proven otherwise – harming our health.
Since 1999, DuPont’s slogan has been “The miracles of science.” This one increasingly overdue action doesn’t require a miracle, and it’s not rocket science: stop the operations that are polluting our water.