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North Carolina to yank Chemours’s water pollution permit for fluorochemical production

Move follows unreported spill of GenX into Cape Fear River, state says

by Cheryl Hogue
November 22, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 47

Small ships on a wide river with multi-story buildings behind them on the shore.
Credit: Shutterstock
North Carolina is moving to restrict Chemours's permit to discharge process wastewater into the Cape Fear River, which provides drinking water to residents of Wilmington, N.C.

Manufacture of fluorinated chemicals, including Nafion sulfonated tetrafluoroethylene-based ionic polymers, at Chemours’s plant near Fayetteville, N.C., could be hampered because North Carolina is suspending part of the facility’s permit to discharge process wastewater.

Earlier this year, Chemours pledged to capture and safely dispose of wastewater containing the fluoropolymer processing aid GenX and related fluorinated compounds. GenX has tainted public drinking water drawn from the Cape Fear River downstream of the plant as well as nearby wells.

In September, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality warned Chemours that as of Nov. 30, it would suspend the part of the water pollution permit covering the Nafion and fluoromonomers production area of the plant, a move that would require the company to capture and dispose of all wastewater from those manufacturing processes. Then in late October, the agency said this action wasn’t necessary because Chemours had taken steps to control the release of per- and polyfluorinated compounds in wastewater.

But now, the agency says it will make good on its threat because Chemours allegedly failed to report a spill of GenX at the plant in early October. Chemours in early November acknowledged the spill, which led to a nearly 100-fold increase in GenX concentrations at its outfall into the Cape Fear River, the agency adds.

Chemours calls the suspension “unwarranted.” The company says it has worked in good faith to cooperate with the agency.

The company and its former parent, DowDuPont, face a class-action lawsuit over the contaminated drinking water.



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