Settlement ends Chemours challenge of permit to reduce PFAS entering the Cape Fear River

RALEIGH- An agreement signed today ends litigation without changing the discharge permit issued to Chemours for the treatment of contaminated groundwater to significantly reduce PFAS entering the Cape Fear River.  

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) reached an agreement with Chemours to end the litigation over the permit issued by DEQ on September 15, 2022. Last month, Chemours filed a petition to challenge the permit. CFPUA intervened to support the permit.

Today’s agreement does not change the final permit conditions and includes measures by which Chemours will proceed toward compliance with the final PFAS permit limits. Those limits take effect six months after discharge from the treatment system begins. In the agreement, Chemours agrees to take specific steps and provide monthly reports on its progress during the six-month optimization period.  Chemours also agrees to dismiss its petition for a contested case hearing on the permit.

The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for the treatment system is part of the larger barrier wall remediation project to substantially reduce PFAS entering the Cape Fear River and impacting downstream communities.  Currently, contaminated groundwater from the facility site flows untreated directly into the Cape Fear River. This project is designed to reduce the largest ongoing source of PFAS at the Chemours facility that contaminates the river and reaches downstream water intakes. The project must be operational by March 15, 2023, under the terms of the Consent Order.  DEQ expects Chemours to take necessary actions to comply with the permit conditions and the Consent Order and meet its obligations to clean up the PFAS contamination impacting thousands of residents in at least eight counties and provide them with alternate water.  DEQ will continue to hold Chemours accountable for the cleanup and for preventing future impacts to North Carolinians.

The agreement is available online here.

DEQ Statement on Chemours Appeal of the NPDES Permit

The NPDES permit for the treatment system is part of the larger barrier wall remediation project to substantially reduce PFAS entering the Cape Fear River and impacting downstream communities.   Chemours is required to fulfill its obligations under the Consent Order and reduce the amount of contaminated groundwater reaching the Cape Fear River from the Chemours Fayetteville Works facility.

The Consent Order Addendum specifies a minimum reduction of 99% for the treatment system. DEQ expects Chemours to take all necessary steps to minimize its PFAS impacts on the environment. Pursuing litigation threatens to delay implementation beyond the Consent Order deadline of March 2023 and extend the ongoing contamination reaching the river and impacting downstream residents.

REMINDER: DEQ to hold community meeting October 11 on the Lower Cape Fear River private well sampling

RALEIGH – The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will hold a community information meeting on Tuesday, October 11, at Roland-Grise Middle School in Wilmington. DEQ will share updates on private well sampling underway for PFAS contamination in New Hanover, Brunswick, Columbus and Pender counties.  Staff will also answer questions from the public about the private well sampling and alternate water supplies. 

When: Tuesday, October 11 at 6 p.m.

Where: Roland-Grise Middle School Auditorium

              4412 Lake Ave, Wilmington, NC 28403

              Speaker sign-up will be available upon arrival at the meeting.

At DEQ’s direction, Chemours is sampling for PFAS contamination in eligible private drinking water wells downstream of the Fayetteville Works Facility. Chemours is required to provide alternate water supplies to residents whose wells exceed specific action levels.

To have your well sampled, call Chemours at (910) 678-1100. Messages to the Chemours call line are monitored during regular business hours (Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.); Chemours should respond within 24-to-48 hours starting on the next business day. Chemours is also sending letters to well owners/residents requesting information about primary drinking water sources and offering sampling.

Additional well sampling information for residents is available on the DEQ website:  https://deq.nc.gov/news/key-issues/genx-investigation/well-sampling-information-lower-cape-fear-area-residents.

DEQ to hold community meeting October 11 on the Lower Cape Fear River private well sampling

RALEIGH – The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will hold a community information meeting on Tuesday, October 11, at Roland-Grise Middle School in Wilmington. DEQ will share updates on private well sampling underway for PFAS contamination in New Hanover, Brunswick, Columbus, and Pender counties.  Staff will also answer questions from the public about the private well sampling and alternate water supplies.

When: Tuesday, October 11 at 6 p.m.

Where: Roland-Grise Middle School Auditorium

4412 Lake Ave, Wilmington, NC 28403

Speaker sign-up will be available upon arrival at the meeting.

 

At DEQ’s direction, Chemours is sampling for PFAS contamination in eligible private drinking water wells downstream of the Fayetteville Works Facility. Chemours is required to provide alternate water supplies to residents whose wells exceed specific action levels.

To have your well sampled, call Chemours at (910) 678-1100. Messages to the Chemours call-line are monitored during regular business hours (Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.); Chemours should respond within 24-to-48 hours starting on the next business day. Chemours is also sending letters to well owners/residents requesting information about primary drinking water sources and offering sampling.

Additional well sampling information for residents is available on the DEQ website:  https://deq.nc.gov/news/key-issues/genx-investigation/well-sampling-information-lower-cape-fear-area-residents

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.

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