Q & A:
What does the consent order do?
It requires Chemours to do as much as possible, as quickly as possible, to stop polluting the Cape Fear River. It will result in a cleaner Cape Fear River in the very near future.
What does this consent order do for the 300,000 people drinking Wilmington’s treated drinking water?
The order will help clean up the Cape Fear River, resulting in cleaner water even before it’s treated by the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority and consumed by the residents of Wilmington. Even though, last year, Chemours stopped dumping GenX-polluted wastewater from its pipe into the Cape Fear River,Chemours continued to pollute the river through contaminated runoff, rainwater,groundwater leakage, and air emissions. The order requires all of those sources of contamination to be cleaned up.
Does this resolve the GenX issues?
No. It is just the next step in the process.
The order focuses on stopping the sources of Chemours’ pollution and ending that pollution on the fastest timeline possible. To do that, Chemours will be taking concrete ongoing steps with oversight from the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, Cape Fear River Watch, and the Southern Environmental Law Center. The order does not close the book on GenX.
Does this consent order tie the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s hands in terms of future regulatory actions, or a future permit?
No. The order does not limit the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s ability to go after Chemours if new information is uncovered about the company’s pollution. And, any future permit must incorporate requirements at least as stringent as those in the order.
Why isn’t the money spent by Cape Fear Public Utility Authority and its customers to filter out the chemicals dumped into the Cape Fear River recovered in this consent order?
Cape Fear Public Utility Authority has separate, ongoing litigation to recover the cost of its water treatment upgrades from Chemours. Under the N.C. Constitution, any fines levied in a state enforcement case must go to the public schools. Therefore, any fine or money damages awarded in the state’s enforcement case legally could not go to Cape Fear Public Utility Authority.
Why doesn’t this agreement address people’s health problems related to Chemours’ contamination?
This agreement will prevent future health issues by controlling the source of Chemours’ PFAS pollution, and by funding health studies. DEQ can also require Chemours to fund additional health studies, beyond those required by the order. Individual health problems must be addressed through separate litigation and are the focus of several other ongoing lawsuits.
Why weren’t Cape Fear Public Utility Authority or Brunswick County brought into this settlement?
The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, Cape Fear River Watch, and Chemours were all parties to Cape Fear River Watch’s state enforcement case. Cape Fear Public Utility Authority and Brunswick County have separate litigation against Chemours to address their concerns and recover money damages for the harm caused by Chemours and DuPont. Under N.C. law, penalties in the state enforcement case must go to a fund for public schools, so the utilities could not obtain the compensation they seek in their lawsuits as part of this order.
CapeFear River Watch’s goal is, and always has been, to force the company to clean up its pollution at the source, rather than set a precedent that requires consumers and utilities to filter out a company’s pollution. Unfortunately, groundwater for neighbors of the facility cannot be cleaned up the way the Cape Fear River can be cleaned up. Therefore, the order requires Chemours to provide replacement drinking water supplies for any party (e.g., household,business, school, or public building) with a contaminated drinking water well, either by connection to a public utility or by provision of a filtration system.
Why should we trust that Chemours will follow through with any of this?
Cape Fear River Watch can enforce the order if Chemours does not meet its obligations. We know much more now than we once did and the order requires Chemours to conduct additional studies on the site and to develop testing protocols so that the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality and Cape Fear River Watch can monitor for chemicals that could not previously be tracked. The order also calls for strict penalties if Chemours does not comply with it.
Why was the fine so small?
The fine in this case could only address Chemours’—not DuPont’s—decades-long history of pollution. It does not limit current or potential litigation from seeking damages from DuPont.
How can I comment?
The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality will accept comments on the proposed order until December 21, 2018. Comments can be e-mailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org, or mailed to the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s Assistant Secretary’s office:
RE: Chemours Public Comments
1601 Mail Service Center,
Raleigh, NC 27699-1601