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DEQ Accepting Comments On Draft Permit For Project To Substantially Reduce PFAS Entering 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 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.