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Persistent Pollutants

Seeking PFAS cleanup, New Jersey sues Solvay and Arkema

State seeks information about chloroperfluoropolyether carboxylates

by Cheryl Hogue
November 13, 2020

 

20201113lnp3-solvay.jpg
Credit: New Jersey Office of the Attorney General
The New Jersey attorney general is suing Solvay over PFAS releases from this plant in West Deptford.

New Jersey is suing Solvay Specialty Polymers and Arkema to clean up per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) at a site along the Delaware River and in drinking water.

A suit filed Nov. 10 points to evidence of widespread PFAS pollution from the manufacture of fluoroproducts at a West Deptford plant. But Solvay, its current owner, “has repeatedly refused to comply with” directives from New Jersey regulators to investigate the pollution and pay for treatment of PFAS-contaminated drinking water, the suit says. The pollution continues to spread, it adds.

Arkema built the plant in the mid-1980s. In 1985, it began using a mixture of perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluoroundecanoic acid, and other PFAS as it made fluoroproducts, including the fluoropolymer Kynar, according to the suit. Arkema sold the plant to Solvay in 1990.

Solvay manufactures fluoroproducts, including Tecnoflon fluoroelastomers and perfluoroelastomers, at the West Deptford facility. The company has used and released thousands of kilograms of PFAS there since 1990, the state says.

In 2010, Solvay quit using PFNA and PFOA at the plant, the suit says. Solvay now likely uses chloroperfluoropolyether carboxylates as a replacement, according to the state. Researchers from the US Environmental Protection Agency and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection used mass spectrometry to discover 10 of these novel compounds in soil near the plant, according to a study published earlier this year (Science 2020, DOI: 10.1126/science.aba7127). These compounds have similar toxicity to PFOA and PFNA, New Jersey says.

Solvay claims the chemical identity of the PFAS it uses at the West Deptford plant as a trade secret, the state says. New Jersey is asking a state court to order Solvay to identify these compounds, share information with the state about releases of these chemicals from the facility, and provide health and safety data for them. The state also wants the company to provide analytical standards for the substances.

Since PFNA was detected near the West Deptford plant, Solvay has “implemented a rigorous investigation and remediation of PFNA,” a spokesperson for Solvay Specialty Polymers says in a statement to C&EN. “We intend to defend ourselves vigorously against [New Jersey's] inaccurate, overly broad, and meritless allegations.”

Update

This story was revised on Nov. 17, 2020, to add comment from Solvay.

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