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.

DEQ expands actions required by Chemours to address GenX/PFAS contamination

RALEIGH – The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is taking two actions requiring Chemours to address GenX and PFAS contamination originating from the Fayetteville Works Facility and affecting private water well owners.

First, Chemours must assess the extent of contamination in downstream communities to include well sampling and provision of replacement drinking water supplies.

“The contamination from Chemours extends down the Cape Fear River into multiple communities and Chemours’ actions to address that contamination must reach those communities as well,” said DEQ Secretary Elizabeth S. Biser.  “DEQ will continue to take the necessary steps to provide relief to affected North Carolinians as the science and regulations require.”

DEQ has determined that Chemours is responsible for contamination of groundwater monitoring wells and water supply wells in New Hanover County and potentially Pender, Columbus, and Brunswick counties. Chemours is required to expand the off-site assessment required under the 2019 Consent Order to determine the extent of the contamination.   Chemours must also conduct sampling of private drinking water wells to identify residents who may be eligible for replacement drinking water supplies. Chemours must submit plans to DEQ for approval.

Second, Chemours is required to review existing well sampling in communities surrounding the Fayetteville Works facility to determine additional eligibility for whole house filtration and public water, in light of the revised Toxicity Assessment for GenX from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Chemours has been advised that EPA will be releasing a federal drinking water health advisory level for GenX in the coming months.  In Paragraph 19, the 2019 Consent Order requires Chemours to provide replacement permanent drinking water to private wells with “detections of GenX compounds in exceedance of 140 ng/L, or any applicable health advisory, whichever is lower.”

In advance of a likely EPA health advisory level below 140 ng/l, DEQ is requiring Chemours to review existing well sampling data to identify residents who would be entitled to public water or whole house filtration under a revised health advisory level.  Chemours must revise the assessment of public water feasibility for all affected residents under a lower health advisory level.  DEQ is also requiring Chemours to develop a plan to transition residents who have previously received reverse osmosis systems based on GenX results to either public water or whole house filtrations systems as appropriate under a lower GenX health advisory level.

Copies of the notifications to Chemours are available online here.

DEQ seeks court approval of additional PFAS reductions by Chemours

RALEIGH – After reviewing public comments, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality has filed the proposed Addendum to the Consent Order for entry by the Bladen County Superior Court. The motions hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday, October 12 in Elizabethtown. The Addendum requires significant additional actions by Chemours to reduce the PFAS entering the Cape Fear River

through residual groundwater contamination at the Fayetteville Works site. These actions will improve water quality for downstream communities as the major pathways for PFAS pollution entering the Cape Fear River will be reduced by 99%.

“We will continue to apply pressure to this company to take responsibility for their actions. These necessary actions under the Consent Order will expand the relief provided to communities along the Cape Fear River by controlling the PFAS contamination at its source,” said Secretary Michael S. Regan. “At the same time, DEQ continues to support state and community leaders’ efforts on additional strategies to address the downstream impact of the contamination from Chemours.”

According to the Addendum, Chemours is required to install extensive remediation systems in two phases for the contaminated groundwater reaching the river.

• The interim measures to filter PFAS at an efficiency of at least 80% from the first of the four seeps will go into effect starting by Mid-November – with all four completed by April 2021.
• The permanent measure is the construction of a subsurface barrier wall approximately 1.5 miles long and groundwater extraction system that will remove at least 99% of PFAS to be completed by March 2023.

Chemours is also required to treat on-site stormwater with a capture and treatment system that must remove at least 99% of PFAS that currently discharge to the river.

Failure to meet the schedules or achieve the removal goals set out in the Addendum will result in financial penalties.

Since 2017, DEQ actions and the Consent Order between DEQ, Cape Fear River Watch and Chemours have stopped the process wastewater discharge from the facility and drastically reduced air emissions of PFAS by 99.9%. The additional actions required in the Addendum will further reduce the PFAS contamination in the Cape Fear River and improve water quality for downstream communities.

DEQ published the Addendum to the Consent Order for public comment and reviewed those comments before filing the Addendum with the court. The

Department’s response to comments is available here.

The Addendum to the Consent Order, the 2019 Consent Order and related documents are available here.

NC DEQ issues permit to keep contaminants out of the Cape Fear River and reduce downstream impacts

RALEIGH – The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has issued a permit for a water treatment system at the Chemours Fayetteville Works site to remove PFAS from a contaminated stream that currently flows into the Cape Fear River. To reduce impacts on downstream communities, the system is required to remove at least 99% of PFAS from the stream. According to the 2019 Consent Order between DEQ, Cape Fear River Watch and Chemours, the treatment system must be operational by September 30, 2020.

This permit does not apply to process wastewater, which Chemours is prohibited from discharging and has been prohibited from discharging since 2017. The treatment system is designed to remove PFAS from the stream referred to as Old Outfall 002 that carries PFAS from residual contamination at the site, including groundwater that flows from under the facility and through contaminated soil, into the Cape Fear River.

The permit requires testing of the influent and effluent to verify at least 99% percent removal efficiency, in addition to specific discharge limits. Based on public input, the final permit was adjusted to clarify that filter backwash from the treatment system must be collected and treated before discharge. Additional information on the permit is provided in the response to comments document posted with the final permit and fact sheet here.

“The treatment system will immediately reduce the amount of PFAS contamination reaching downstream communities,” said Assistant Secretary for the Environment Sheila Holman. “When combined with the measures required in the proposed Addendum to the Consent Order, communities along the Cape Fear River will continue to see additional PFAS reductions at their water intakes as each step is implemented in the months ahead.”

Since 2017, DEQ actions and the Consent Order have stopped the discharge of process wastewater to the Cape Fear River, identified and reduced air emissions by more than 99% and initiated groundwater remediation efforts. This treatment system permit is one of several measures in the Consent Order and proposed Addendum to address residual contamination and reduce PFAS pollution impacts to the Cape Fear River and downstream communities on an expedited basis. For instance, the proposed Addendum requires Chemours to install treatment systems to treat contaminated water flowing from under the facility through four surface water bodies, sometimes called “Seeps,” to the Cape Fear River. The schedule in the proposed Addendum requires installation of the first treatment system by November 16, 2020 and installation of the final treatment system by April 5, 2021.

Documents related to the Consent Order, including the proposed addendum are available online at: https://deq.nc.gov/ChemoursConsentOrder.

Reminder: State seeks feedback on Chemours Consent Order Addendum, Comment Period open through Thursday

RALEIGH – The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality seeks public comment on the Addendum to the Consent Order, which requires significant additional actions by Chemours to prevent PFAS pollution from entering the Cape Fear River via contaminated groundwater from the Fayetteville Works Site. Comments will be accepted through Thursday, Sept. 17.

Since 2017, DEQ actions and the Consent Order have stopped the process wastewater discharge from the facility and drastically reduced air emissions of PFAS by 99.9%. The additional actions in the Addendum to the Consent Order between DEQ, Cape Fear River Watch and Chemours will further reduce the PFAS contamination to the Cape Fear River and improve water quality for downstream communities.

Moving forward, Chemours is required to treat four identified ‘seeps’ which account for more than half of the contaminated groundwater reaching the river in two phases.
• The interim measures to filter PFAS at an efficiency of at least 80% from the first of the four seeps will go into effect starting by Mid-November – with all four completed by April 2021.
• The permanent measure is the construction of a subsurface barrier wall approximately 1.5 miles long and groundwater extraction system that will remove at least 99% of PFAS to be completed by March 2023.
Chemours is also required to treat on-site stormwater that is adding residual pollution to the river with a capture and treatment system that must remove at least 99% of PFAS.

Failure to meet the schedules or achieve the removal goals will result in financial penalties, including:
• Failure to meet the construction schedule for the interim measures will result in fines of $5,000 per day for the first 14 days and $10,000/day until construction is complete.
• Failure to meet the barrier wall installation schedule results in a $150,000 fine followed by $20,000 per week until installation is complete.
• Failure to meet the barrier wall’s 95% mass loading goal in the initial demonstration results in a $500,000 fine, with a $100,000 fine for failure to meet any of the four subsequent demonstrations.

Comments on the Addendum will be accepted through September 17. Comments can be submitted electronically to comments.chemours@ncdenr.gov or mailed to Assistant Secretary’s Office, RE: Chemours Public Comments 1601 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1601.

DEQ will consider the public comments before the Addendum is presented for entry by the Bladen County Superior Court. The Addendum is available here.

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