Chemours Draft Permit to Address Groundwater Contamination

Permit is part of remediation plan to substantially reduce PFAS entering the Cape Fear River

RALEIGH – The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality Division of Water Resources (DWR) will hold public hearings on June 21 and 23 to accept comments on a proposed National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) wastewater permit, for a groundwater treatment system at the Chemours Fayetteville Works facility. The draft permit would substantially reduce the PFAS entering the Cape Fear River via contaminated groundwater which is currently entering the river untreated.

IN PERSON

Date:                          Tuesday, June 21, 2022, at 6 p.m.

Location:                    Cape Fear Community College, 411 N. Front Street, Wilmington

Union Station, First Floor Auditorium

Register:                     Speaker registration opens at 5 p.m., onsite signup sheet

 

REMOTE/ONLINE

Date:                           Thursday, June 23, 2022, at 6.p.m.

Meeting Access:         WebEx link: https://ncdenrits.webex.com/ncdenrits/onstage/g.php?MTID=e6a3cebefc6af2776f229c3d4f2c74da9

Event number:            2421 589 1484

Event password:         NCDEQ

Audio conference:      US TOLL +1-415-655-0003, Access code: 2421 589 1484

Register to Speak:       Speaker registration by 12 noon, June 23, at https://forms.office.com/g/YEqDLDDDp7

Please contact Peter Johnston if you have issues registering online at 919-707-9011 or email peter.johnston@ncdenr.gov.

To submit comments by email, send to publiccomments@ncdenr.gov with CHEMOURS noted in the subject line by 5 p.m. June 24, 2022. Public comments may also be mailed to Wastewater Permitting, Attn: Chemours Permit, 1617 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, N.C., 27699-1617.

The draft permit and fact sheet are available to view online.

Chemours has been prohibited from discharging PFAS-contaminated process wastewater from its manufacturing operations into the Cape Fear River since 2017. However, historic operations at the facility have caused significant groundwater contamination at the site. The draft NPDES permit (NC0090042) allows only the discharge of treated water associated with groundwater remediation efforts, primarily treated groundwater, some surface water and stormwater. It would not allow the discharge of wastewater from Chemours manufacturing processes.

As outlined in the 2020 Addendum to the Consent Order, Chemours is required to address groundwater contamination by installing an underground barrier wall that will run more than a mile alongside the Cape Fear River. This wall will intercept contaminated groundwater from the facility before it reaches the river, and a series of extraction wells will pump the captured groundwater to a treatment system. The draft permit requires that the treatment system remove at least 99% of PFAS from the pumped groundwater before it enters the river. Without this treatment system intervention and accompanying discharge permit, this heavily contaminated groundwater would continue to flow to the river untreated and continue to impact downstream water supplies.

State agencies responding to release of EPA health advisories for four PFAS compounds

RALEIGH – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today released health advisory values for four PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances): GenX, PFOA, PFOS and PFBS. Today’s EPA actions are based on the best available science and consider lifetime exposure to these PFAS compounds. The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) are moving quickly to evaluate the state’s drinking water supplies based on these health advisories and determine appropriate next steps to assess and reduce exposure risks. 

In step with the DEQ Action Strategy for PFAS, DEQ will prioritize actions to protect communities based upon the number of people impacted, concentration of PFAS in the drinking water, and the impacts to vulnerable and disadvantaged populations.  

GenX  

Since 2017, North Carolina has taken decisive action to address GenX contamination originating from the Chemours Fayetteville Works Facility. For GenX, the EPA set a final lifetime health advisory level of 10 parts per trillion (ppt), which would replace the state’s provisional drinking water health goal of 140 ppt developed by NCDHHS in 2018.  The Consent Order requires Chemours to provide whole house filtration for private drinking water wells with GenX concentrations above a health advisory.  The federal health advisory will now replace the state provisional drinking water health goal and DEQ estimates more than 1700 additional private well users will now be eligible for whole house filtration or connection to a public water supply.  DEQ is directing Chemours to proceed with the implementation of the health advisory and additional information will be provided to residents about their options and next steps as soon as possible. 

PFOA and PFOS 

While GenX contamination is specific to the Cape Fear River Basin in North Carolina, PFOS and PFOA were commonly used nationwide for decades in a variety of consumer goods and industrial processes.  PFOA and PFOS, often called ‘legacy compounds’ have been largely phased out of current use and replaced by GenX and PFBS.   

EPA issued interim updated health advisories of 0.004 ppt for PFOA and 0.02 ppt for PFOS, with a minimum reporting level of 4 ppt.  These interim advisories replace the 2016 provisional health advisory of 70 ppt for both compounds.  According to EPA, there is an increased risk of adverse health effects, including effects on the immune system, the cardiovascular system, human development (e.g., decreased birth weight), and cancer, when drinking water with compounds above the health advisory over a lifetime.  

EPA recommends water systems that measure any levels of PFOA or PFOS take steps to inform customers, undertake additional sampling to assess the level, scope and source of contamination, and examine steps to limit exposure.  At this time, EPA is not recommending bottled water or providing alternative water sources, based solely on concentrations of these chemicals in drinking water that exceed the health advisory levels.  

Data on the PFOA and PFOS levels in North Carolina’s private drinking water wells and public water systems are limited.  However, available sampling indicates the presence of one or both compounds in multiple public water systems across the state. DEQ and DHHS are evaluating the available data in light of these new health advisories to identify potentially affected communities and take action to address impacts to North Carolina residents.  DHHS will ensure guidance on health impacts related to these forever chemicals is available to the public and remains up-to-date. Specific health information can be found in the EPA’s health advisories or in the NCDHHS PFAS fact sheet and GenX fact sheet.  

Most exposures occur by consuming food or water containing PFAS. The EPA health advisories account for margin of safety for other potential exposure sources, such as through skin (dermal), breathing (inhalation), dietary exposure, consumer products, etc. You can lower the risks of health impacts by using home or point of use water filters or alternate water sources if PFAS are above health advisory levels in your drinking water. Information on testing and filtration can be found in the NCDHHS PFAS Testing and Filtration Resources Fact Sheet.  

While health advisories are not enforceable regulatory standards, EPA plans to propose federal drinking water standards for both PFOA and PFOS.  DEQ is evaluating the appropriate next steps to assist communities, well owners, and water systems in advance of the proposed federal drinking water standards.  

PFBS
For PFBS, EPA set a health advisory at 2,000 ppt.  PFBS has not been found in significant concentrations in sampling to date in North Carolina.  

DEQ and DHHS will plan additional outreach for affected residents in the weeks ahead.  Specific health information related to PFAS from DHHS, including fact sheets, can be found online here. Additional DEQ information about PFAS, including the DEQ Action Strategy for PFAS, is available here. 

DHHS Anticipated Public Question Responses V2
GenX_Factsheet_6.15.22
PFAS_Factsheet_6.15.22
PFAS_TestingFiltration

DEQ announces Action Strategy for PFAS

RALEIGH – The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality announced the agency’s Action Strategy for PFAS today during an event in Wilmington. The DEQ Action Strategy for PFAS contains three priorities: protecting communities, protecting drinking water and cleaning up existing contamination.

“Families deserve to have confidence that they’re getting clean water when they turn on the tap,” Governor Cooper said. “North Carolina has taken the lead across the country in demanding accountability for PFAS and other emerging chemical compounds and this plan will help us continue to proactively protect our communities.”

“In the last five years, communities along the Cape Fear River have learned far more than most about GenX and PFAS, or forever chemicals, and their impacts and we want to ensure that in the future no other community experiences what they have already been though,” said Secretary Elizabeth S. Biser. “DEQ’s Action Strategy lays out our priorities to address PFAS comprehensively across our state and our commitment to propose enforceable standards for PFAS chemicals.”

DEQ’s priority areas include actions to identify health and exposure risks, develop the science needed to set enforceable limits, and steps to minimize future PFAS pollution.

DEQ, in consultation with DHHS and the Secretaries’ Science Advisory Board, is working to create a list of Priority PFAS compounds most prevalent in North Carolina.  DEQ plans to propose groundwater, surface water and drinking water standards for priority PFAS and will initiate rulemaking for those that have available scientific data. For compounds without the required data, DEQ will work with academic partners to develop the data needed to set standards.

While standards are being developed, DEQ will provide technical assistance to permittees who take early action and chose to reduce their releases into the environment through materials substitution, pollution control and treatment systems, and other innovative techniques.

The DEQ Strategy for PFAS Action is available online at: https://deq.nc.gov/media/30108/open

Should your well be considered for Chemours drinking water well testing?

Chemours has begun a drinking water well testing program in New Hanover, Brunswick, Columbus, and Pender counties. The testing is being performed per the revised Interim Four Counties Sampling and Drinking Water Plan (Plan). The revised Plan was submitted to North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ; https://deq.nc.gov/) on April 1, 2022.

Chemours is in the process of identifying private drinking water wells that may qualify for testing. The water will be tested for the 12 per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) compounds listed in the Consent Order (CO) and may be also other PFAS compounds as well as non-PFAS water quality parameters. Call (910) 678-1100 and leave a message if you feel your well should be tested.  A team member will call you back within three business days.

For more information, please check the Fayetteville Works website at: https://www.chemours.com/en/about-chemours/global-reach/fayetteville-works.

Initial-Sampling-Poster_Four_Counties_R2

Public hearings scheduled for Chemours draft permit to address groundwater contamination

Permit is part of remediation plan to substantially reduce PFAS entering the Cape Fear River

RALEIGH – The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality Division of Water Resources (DWR) will hold public hearings on June 21 and 23 to accept comments on the draft discharge permit for a proposed groundwater treatment system at the Chemours Fayetteville Works facility that would substantially reduce the PFAS entering the Cape Fear River via contaminated groundwater. Chemours is required to remove at least 99% of PFAS from the contaminated groundwater before discharge. Currently, contaminated groundwater flowing into the river is not intercepted or treated.

DWR will continue to accept comments on the proposed National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) wastewater permit through 5 p.m., June 24. Comments submitted during the previous comment period from March 25 to May 2, 2022 are being considered and do not need to be resubmitted.

To give interested communities opportunities to comment, two public hearings are scheduled for this draft permit, one in-person, and one held remotely.

 

IN PERSON

Date:                           Tuesday, June 21, 2022, at 6 p.m.

Location:                    Cape Fear Community College, 411 N. Front Street, Wilmington

Union Station, First Floor Auditorium

Register:                     Speaker registration opens at 5 p.m., onsite signup sheet

 

REMOTE/ONLINE

Date:                           Thursday, June 23, 2022, at 6 p.m.

Meeting Access:         WebEx link: https://ncdenrits.webex.com/ncdenrits/onstage/g.php?MTID=e6a3cebefc6af2776f229c3d4f2c74da9

Event number:            2421 589 1484

Event password:         NCDEQ

Audio conference:      US TOLL +1-415-655-0003, Access code: 2421 589 1484

Register to Speak:       Speaker registration by 12 noon, June 23, at https://forms.office.com/g/YEqDLDDDp7

Please contact Peter Johnston if you have issues registering online at 919-707-9011 or email peter.johnston@ncdenr.gov.

To submit comments by email, send to publiccomments@ncdenr.gov with CHEMOURS noted in the subject line. Public comments may also be mailed to Wastewater Permitting, Attn: Chemours Permit, 1617 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, N.C., 27699-1617.

The draft permit and fact sheet are available to view online.

Chemours has been prohibited from discharging PFAS-contaminated process wastewater from its manufacturing operations into the Cape Fear River since 2017. However, historic operations at the facility have caused significant groundwater contamination at the site. The draft NPDES permit (NC0090042) allows only the discharge of treated water associated with groundwater remediation efforts, primarily treated groundwater, some surface water and stormwater. It would not allow the discharge of wastewater from Chemours manufacturing processes.

As outlined in the 2020 Addendum to the Consent Order, Chemours is required to address groundwater contamination by installing an underground barrier wall that will run more than a mile alongside the Cape Fear River. This wall will intercept contaminated groundwater from the facility before it reaches the river, and a series of extraction wells will pump the captured groundwater to a treatment system. The draft permit requires that the treatment system remove at least 99% of PFAS from the pumped groundwater before it enters the river. Without this treatment system intervention and accompanying discharge permit, this heavily contaminated groundwater would continue to flow to the river untreated and continue to impact downstream water supplies.

DEQ requires Chemours to further expand sampling in the Lower Cape Fear area; Public meeting set for May 9 in Wilmington

Public hearing on NPDES discharge permit for proposed treatment system to be scheduled.

RALEIGH – The Department of Environmental Quality is directing Chemours to further expand drinking water well sampling in New Hanover, Brunswick, Pender and Columbus Counties and to prioritize specific areas for immediate sampling. Chemours is required to provide alternate water supplies based on results as specified by the Consent Order.

After an extensive review of Chemours’ updated interim sampling and drinking water plan and a review of  new groundwater monitoring data in Brunswick, Pender and Columbus counties, DEQ has directed Chemours to take additional steps:

  • Prioritize the identification and expeditious sampling of private wells within ¼ mile of public water distribution lines and sanitary sewer network;
  • Prioritize the identification and expeditious sampling of private wells within ¼ mile of the detections shown in monitoring data provided by NC DEQ;
  • Provide a detailed description of the representative sampling methodology, including justification for any exclusionary criteria;
  • Provide a timeline to expeditiously complete sampling in the four counties; and
  • Increase reporting on the sampling activities from quarterly to monthly.

DEQ will host a public meeting on Monday, May 9, at the Lumina Theatre on the University of North Carolina Wilmington campus to share sampling information and answer questions about well sampling in the Lower Cape Fear River area.

When: Monday, May 9, 2022 – 6:00 p.m.
Where: Lumina Theatre, Fischer Student Center
Note: Please park in Visitor Lot M (4941 Riegel Road)

On November 3, 2021, DEQ determined that Chemours is responsible for groundwater contamination in four downstream counties. The Notice required Chemours to submit a plan to assess of the groundwater contamination in New Hanover County and other affected counties that aligns with the February 2019 Consent Order and develop a drinking water well sampling plan and provide alternate drinking water.

NPDES Permit Public Hearing
In response to public requests, the Division of Water resources will schedule a public hearing on the draft discharge permit for a proposed treatment system at the Chemours facility that would substantially reduce PFAS entering the Cape Fear River via contaminated groundwater from the site. The Consent Order requires Chemours to address this contamination by installing an underground, mile-plus-long barrier wall alongside the Cape Fear River. The proposed wall will intercept contaminated groundwater from the facility before it reaches the river, and a series of extraction wells will pump the captured groundwater to a treatment system required to remove more than 99% of PFAS.

Details on the public hearing will be announced soon with the required 30 days of notice.

Information on the proposed treatment system, the reductions required by the Consent Order, and links to the draft permit documents are available here.

DEQ accepting comments on Draft Permit for Project to Substantially Reduce PFAS Entering the Cape Fear River

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality is currently accepting public comments on a draft discharge permit for a proposed groundwater treatment system at the Chemours facility that would substantially reduce PFAS entering the Cape Fear River via contaminated groundwater.

Since 2017, Chemours has been prohibited from discharging PFAS-contaminated wastewater from its plant operations into the Cape Fear River.  However, historic operations at the facility have caused significant groundwater contamination at the site.  Currently, this heavily contaminated groundwater flows untreated to the Cape Fear River.  This groundwater may contribute over 60% of the PFAS flowing from the facility to the river.  Without intervention, this untreated groundwater will continue to contaminate the river and downstream water supplies for years to come.

The Consent Order requires Chemours to address this contamination by installing an underground barrier wall that will run more than a mile alongside the Cape Fear River.  This wall will intercept contaminated groundwater from the facility before it reaches the river and a series of extraction wells will pump the captured groundwater to a treatment system.  The draft permit requires that the treatment system remove at least 99% of PFAS from the pumped groundwater before it enters the river.  Without this treatment system and accompanying discharge permit, this heavily contaminated groundwater would continue to flow to the river untreated.

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality has received a number of comments on the draft permit since it was released for comment.  Some comments and recent reports have mischaracterized the draft permit as authorizing an “increase” in the PFAS discharge to the river.  This is incorrect.  Treating the contaminated groundwater currently flowing untreated into the river will result in a significant reduction of PFAS contamination.  When operational in Spring of 2023, the barrier wall, extraction wells, and treatment system will intercept and substantially reduce the largest current source of PFAS from the facility impacting the Cape Fear River and downstream communities.

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality welcomes comments on the draft NPDES permit.  All comments received by May 2, 2022, will be considered before final action on the draft permit.

Send email comments to publiccomments@ncdenr.gov with ‘CHEMOURS’ in the subject line.

Or by mail to Wastewater Permitting, Attn: Chemours Permit,

1617 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, N.C., 27699-1617.

DEQ directs Chemours to expand its interim sampling and drinking water plan for the Lower Cape Fear River area

RALEIGH – After a comprehensive review, the Department of Environmental Quality has sent a letter today directing Chemours 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. “Chemours must contact residents directly, sample more wells, and proceed more quickly to address contaminated drinking water.”

The interim sampling plan was submitted on February 1, in response to the department’s November 3, 2021 Notice. In that notice, DEQ 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 has identified seven areas in which the interim sampling and drinking water plan is deficient, and is requiring Chemours to submit a revised plan within 30 days. The revisions must include, but are not limited to:

  • 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.

The response letter and related documents are available online. Residents in the four counties of the lower Cape Fear River basin can request well sampling by calling 910-678-1100.

Residential well testing for GenX could happen this month

Pender County Health and Human Services Director Carolyn Moser told the board of county commissioners on Feb. 7 that Chemours may proceed with testing residential water wells along the Cape Fear River.

According to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, Chemours submitted a plan to DEQ which is currently being reviewed for sampling in Pender County.

It is possible the sampling could take place this month.

NCDEQ maintains a “request to sample” list. Residents in close proximity to the Cape Fear River should visit DEQ’s website, https://deq.nc.gov/news/key-issues/genx-investigation/genx-information-residents. 

Pender County officials will share information to our residents as it becomes available.

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