State Politics

The company responsible for GenX pollution hasn’t cleaned up its act, NC says

This June 15, 2017, file photo shows the Fayetteville Works plant near Fayetteville, North Carolina. Wilmington, Delaware-based Chemours Co. has faced questions about an unregulated chemical with unknown health risks that flowed from the company’s plant near Fayetteville into the Cape Fear River.
This June 15, 2017, file photo shows the Fayetteville Works plant near Fayetteville, North Carolina. Wilmington, Delaware-based Chemours Co. has faced questions about an unregulated chemical with unknown health risks that flowed from the company’s plant near Fayetteville into the Cape Fear River. AP

The company behind North Carolina’s GenX pollution hasn’t shown that it has followed the state’s instructions to clean up its pollution and keep more of it from escaping, state officials announced Tuesday.

The state Department of Environmental Quality says the company in question, Chemours, failed to show that it has taken the steps regulators at DEQ told it to take in December.

And on top of that, DEQ claims, Chemours also must do more to stop GenX from leaking into the air around its plant near Fayetteville. Previously much of the attention has focused not on air pollution, but on water pollution in the Cape Fear River, which provides the drinking water for much of southeastern North Carolina.

GenX is an unregulated and relatively untested chemical whose effects on humans aren’t publicly known yet. However, it’s closely related to a different chemical called C8 – and is a member of a family of chemicals called PFAs – known to cause birth defects and diseases including cancer.

In December, after revoking Chemours’ permit to discharge anything into the river, DEQ told the company it needed to start cleaning up behind the pollution it has already discharged as well as stop sending out more pollution.

Chemours sent back a letter in January, which DEQ responded to this week. In that response, DEQ said Chemours failed not only to show that it had complied, but also to show that it had a plan in place to get started.

“Chemours must commence immediate interim measures to terminate and control the sources of contamination, and mitigate any hazards resulting from exposure to pollutants,” DEQ’s most recent letter said.

DEQ gave the company until the end of the month to address its complaints, or else face more actions. If it still doesn’t do anything by the end of February, DEQ’s options range from sending another strongly worded letter to fining the company.

State law limits the amount that DEQ can fine Chemours to no more than $25,000.

In the first nine months of 2017, Chemours made a profit of $518 million. And according to a Feb. 5 article from stock market research firm Wyatt Investment Research, Chemours “is expected to grow earnings by nearly 40 percent next year.”

Doran: 919-836-2858; Twitter: @will_doran

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