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State officials urged not to sign Chemours consent order

By Erin Smith

Residents and other interested individuals gathered at Bladen Community College on Tuesday night to hear from State officials regarding the consent order with Chemours. Also, to receive updates on the ongoing investigation into the presence of GenX and other compounds in the Cape Fear River.

Several speakers urged representatives from the Department of Environmental Quality and the NC Department of Health and Human Services not to sign the consent order with Chemours.

Sheila Holman, Assistant Secretary for the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, discussed the consent order.  She said the work of the many staff members of the NC Division of Environmental Quality helped in the creation of the consent order. Public comments are being accepted on the consent order. 

Holman highlighted various parts of the order.  She said several areas of the consent address PFAs being allowed to enter the environment.  Holman said the consent order requires Chemours to reduce air emissions by 52 percent in 2018 and by 99 percent in 2019.

“The order itself picks up DEQ’s suspension of the processed wastewater discharge so that can be judicially enforceable,” said Holman.

She said the consent order also directs Chemours to reduce PFAs in the surface water from entering the Cape Fear River and the order calls for reductions in PFAs in storm water and non processed wastewater.

Holman said the consent order includes remedial action to clean up contamination.

“That includes ground water corrective action plan,” said Holman.

She also stated that part of the corrective action plan includes the lining of the ditches to stop infiltration via the groundwater.

As part of the consent order Chemours must provide drinking water and or filtration systems to those who want them.

Michael Scott, with the NC Division of Waste Management, updated those in attendance regarding the pilot study using the Granulated Activated Carbon filtration systems or GAC. He said the systems were installed in six homes; however one resident requested to have the system removed.

Scott described the filtration system as having two large blue canisters with an iron filter and a sediment filter. The systems are installed in buildings outside the home and the water passes through the filtration system before entering the residence.

Scott added, one resident using the GAC system is still showing signs of GenX at the kitchen tap. He said officials are working to determine how the GenX is entering the home. Scott said the water leaving the filtration system at the residence is testing negative for the presence of GenX. He said officials are working to eliminate potential sources such as contaminated water lines coming to the residence.

Scott also told those gathered about a tanker truck spill involving GenX contaminated waste water in September. The spill ocurred at Tobermory Road and Register Avenue. He said State officials were notified of the spill by Chemours.

“We went out in collaboration with EPA and sampled a lot of soil,” said Scott.

He said samples were collected from the roadside where the spill ocurred and “background” samples were also collected. Scott said the samples are being analyzed and the State officials are preparing the results of those samples.

Linda Culpepper spoke about the Environmental Protection Agency issuing an update to their drinking water test method called 537.1. It now lists 18 of the chemicals being seen at Chemours.

She said this does not apply to wastewater. “EPA has not come out with a certified test method for waste water,” said Culpepper.

She shared data showing that the GenX measurements are trending downward since Chemours has ceased to release wastewater into the Cape Fear River.

She also said North Carolina officials have  been talking with counterparts in other states across the United States and sharing information.

Zack Moore, with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, shared results of blood test which were performed on 30 residents who volunteered. The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia assisted with the testing.

Criteria for those participating in the testing included being a full-time resident since September 2016, must be 12 years of age or older, have the ability to provide blood and urine safely and the ability to understand English.

Moore said the 30 residents selected had the highest concentrations fo GenX present in their wells. He said the testing looked for 17 PFAs in the blood samples and 16 PFAs in the urine samples. In the blood samples, nine of the 17 PFAs were present. He added GenX and seven other PFAs were not detected in the blood samples.

Moore said four PFAs were detected in all participants. They were PFHxS, nPFOs, nPFDA, and Sm-PFOS.

Moore said in the urine samples only one PFA was detected and that was PFHxA. No other PFAs were detected in the urine samples.

Moore said there are no established levels for PFAs in blood. He said the results are similar to the US population.

Moore also said two older PFAs were found at levels higher than the US population.

Members of the public wishing to speak encouraged the officials present not to sign the consent order.

Beth Markesino, with the group NC Stop GenX, said, “The consent order does not address all cities or counties. This doesn’t address people in Brunswick County or Wilmington. We know that some point we want a consent order, but not now.”

Markesino continued, “We have learned some information which is really great because Chemours and DuPont have been poisoning us for 37 years. There is so much information that they are still withholding from us.”

Katie Gallagher, also a member of NC Stop GenX, said GenX has been manufactured since 1963. She also told officials she resides in Hampstead and has GenX in her well.

Michael Waters spoke next. He told those present that he had the GAC system removed from his home at his request.

He also asked officials why the state is seeking a consent order to require Chemours to adhere to the items outlined.

“Why aren’t you requiring them to do all of that without the consent order?”

Waters suggested State officials require Chemours to pay to have municipal and county water lines provided to the residents.

When asked about his thoughts following the meeting, Bladen County Commissioner Chairman Charles Ray Peterson said he had no comment.

“The State’s the regulator, not us (the County Commissioners),” said Peterson.

When asked about extending county water lines, Chairman Peterson asked, “Who is going pay for it?”

The State is accepting comments on the consent order until December 21.Comments can be submitted electronically to comments.chemours@ncdenr.gov or mailed to Assistant Secretary’s office, RE: Chemours Public Comments, 1601 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1601.

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