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.

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.

Rabies detected in bobcat; protect your pets

An important message from Pender County Health Department:
Pender County Health Department has been notified that a bobcat has tested positive for rabies. While the animal was captured in a sparsely populated area off Highway 421, residents are encouraged to avoid contact with wildlife. Do not feed feral cats, dogs, or wildlife. Anyone that sees a wild animal acting strangely or aggressive toward people should contact the Pender County Sheriff’s Department, Animal Control staff at (910) 259-1349.
When rabies is detected in wildlife, it is very important that pet owners assure their pet has a current rabies vaccination. Rabies vaccinations are available at the Pender County Animal Shelter for $5. For details call 910 259-1484.

Local Emergency Planning Committee highlights disaster preparedness

NEW HANOVER COUNTY – More than two dozen government agencies from Pender and New Hanover counties, several local municipalities, and private business partners from across the region came together at the Wilmington Convention Center on Feb. 3 for the first conference of the New Hanover and Pender Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC).

The event was an opportunity for officials in the public and private sectors to discuss, review and develop a deeper understanding of the needs and strategies necessary to collaborate and successfully navigate an emergency, should it arise.

“Working together when a disaster happens, whether it’s a natural event or something caused by human error, is so important to keep our communities safe. This was a chance to really dive into what that looks like,” said New Hanover County Emergency Management Technician and event conference coordinator Teresa Smith. “In Southeastern North Carolina, we know a lot about hurricanes and flooding, but those aren’t the only type of disasters that could potentially impact our area. Being prepared for an array of events and scenarios is so critical to safety.”

The conference opened with a welcome by Pender County Chairman David Piepmeyer who stressed the importance of regional collaboration. The event was bookended by two speakers who drove home the importance of being prepared. Charleston firefighter Dr. David Griffin opened the day with an emotional presentation about the 2007 fire at a furniture store in Charleston that left nine firefighters dead and how that moment reshaped the training and skill development of firefighters in the city and across the country. Pender County Fire Marshall Mark Haraway closed the gathering by discussing his role as Fire Chief and Emergency Management director for the town of Apex during a chemical fire back in 2007 at the Environmental Quality Industrial Services plant that made international headlines.

In between those presentations, more than 200 attendees heard from and asked questions of local and state health officials, staff at General Electric, the National Weather Service, community service providers and others about things to consider when developing plans for a major event.

“Hearing from people who have lived through these types of catastrophic events truly drives home just how crucial it is to be prepared and have those open lines of communication between our public and private partners in the LEPC,” said Pender County Emergency Management Director Tommy Batson. “We certainly hope this training and these partnerships are something we never have to call upon, but we also know it could be the thing that leads to a decision that saves someone’s life.”

Partners in the LEPC include New Hanover County Emergency Management, Pender County Emergency Management, City of Wilmington Emergency Management, Town of Carolina Beach, New Hanover County Commissioners Office (with Commissioner Jonathan Barfield, Jr. serving as the representative), New Hanover County Public Health, New Hanover County Fire Rescue, City of Wilmington Fire Department, Pender County Health Department, UNCW Emergency Management, NC Emergency Management, NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources, NC Department of Environmental Quality, NC Department of Transportation, US Coast Guard, Acme Smoked Fish, Airgas, Alcami, American Red Cross, Buckeye Terminal, Colonial Terminal, Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, Celanese, Corning, Duke Energy Sutton Plant, Elementis, GE/ GE Hitachi, HEPACO, Kinder Morgan, NC State Port Authority, Novant Health NHRMC, Piedmont Natural Gas, Praxair, SeaSafety, SR&R Environmental, Stepan, and Sturdy Corporation.

The LEPC is responsible for SARA Title III environmental compliance, HAZMAT training and exercises, site-specific chemical planning programs, coordination of chemical information to emergency responders, and maintenance of the county-wide HAZMAT Incident Management Plan.

Conference planning staff included representatives from New Hanover County Emergency Management, Pender County Emergency Management, New Hanover County Fire Rescue, City of Wilmington Fire, City of Wilmington Emergency Management, American Red Cross, and New Hanover County Public Health.

Pender County Library will host American Red Cross Blood Drive on March 11

Register today!

BURGAW – Pender County Library will host a community blood drive with the American Red Cross on Friday, March 11 from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The blood drive will be held at the Main Library located at 103 South Cowan Street in Burgaw.

According to the American Red Cross, we are currently experiencing a national blood crisis and need your help. Blood is routinely transfused to patients with cancer and other diseases, premature babies, organ transplant recipients, and trauma victims.

The short amount of time it takes to donate can mean a lifetime to a patient with a serious medical condition. Donors of all blood types are needed, especially those with types O negative, B negative, and A negative.

The American Red Cross urges eligible donors to join us in the selfless act of giving blood. With a simple blood donation, we can potentially save the lives of our community members in need.

For more information call Pender County Library at 910-259-1234 during regular business hours. To make an appointment to donate, call the Red Cross at 1-800-733-2767 or sign up online at RedCrossBlood.org with sponsor code “Pender.”

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.

Application period closing Dec. 17 for HOPE rent and utility assistance program

More than $744 million awarded to help North Carolina families 

RALEIGH, N.C. — The application period for the Housing Opportunities and Prevention of Evictions (HOPE) Program will close at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 17, with available federal funding committed to applications currently in-process and those expected in the week ahead. Since opening in October 2020, HOPE has promoted housing stability during the pandemic by providing rent and utility assistance to North Carolina families financially impacted by COVID-19. To date, the program has awarded $744 million to help 148,939 households. Of that amount, $585 million has already been paid directly to landlords and utility companies statewide. 

The U.S. Department of Treasury recently ranked the HOPE Program as No. 3 in the nation for the number of households served, while North Carolina overall ranked No. 6 for the spending of federal Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) money. Several other states have also announced the closure of their ERA programs, including Texas and Oregon. Due to a substantial increase in applications since the Thanksgiving holiday, the HOPE Program now expects to exhaust funds in the coming weeks and is closing intake to ensure that eligible applications received by the deadline will be awarded financial assistance.

“The HOPE Program has worked diligently to reach as many applicants as possible and has been watching the application volume carefully,” said Director Laura Hogshead of the N.C. Office of Recovery and Resiliency, which administers the HOPE Program. “We’ve seen a substantial increase in applications since the Thanksgiving holiday. As a result, the application period is closing sooner than expected to ensure eligible applicants who apply by the deadline will get the help they need.”

Renters experiencing financial hardship in the 88 counties served by HOPE are encouraged to apply at www.HOPE.NC.gov or by calling 888-9ASK-HOPE (888-927-5467) by this Friday, Dec. 17. HOPE applications already under review and new applications submitted by the deadline will be processed, with awards to be paid on behalf of eligible applicants. 

The closing of the HOPE Program’s application period does not impact federally funded local rent and utility assistance programs. In addition to HOPE, 12 counties and five Native American tribes received direct federal funding to operate their own emergency rent and utility programs. While the HOPE Program’s funding is projected to run out soon, local and tribal programs may still be accepting applications beyond Dec. 17. The HOPE Interactive Map provides a list of counties served by HOPE, local government programs, and tribal government programs.

Detailed information about the HOPE Program, including eligibility requirements, program benefits, and an online application, is available at www.HOPE.NC.gov. Applicants who cannot access the website should call 888-9ASK-HOPE (888-927-5467) for help with the application process. The HOPE Call Center will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday, Dec. 17. Both English- and Spanish-speaking representatives are available to assist callers. 

Landlords whose tenants are struggling to pay rent due to the pandemic can also submit names and contact information using the HOPE Program website or by contacting the HOPE Call Center at 888-9ASK-HOPE (888-927-5467). A program specialist will then follow up with the tenant to help start the application process.   

Funding for the HOPE Program is provided to the state through U.S. Department of Treasury Coronavirus Relief Fund allocations and the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The HOPE Program is managed by the N.C. Office of Recovery and Resiliency, a division of the Department of Public Safety. To learn more about the HOPE Program, visit www.HOPE.NC.gov.

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