Wilmington, NC—Today, Cape Fear Public Utility Authority was informed by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) that scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have been working to identify other per-fluorinated compounds in the Cape Fear River discovered in a November 2016 report by North Carolina State University. DEQ announced today that the scientists have been able to identify and test for five of these compounds.
The preliminary report provides the results for samples taken from Chemours’ Outfall 002 and finished water from Sweeney Water Treatment Plant over a six-week time period. The results show that the levels of three of these compounds decreased as levels of GenX decreased. Levels of two other compounds, known as Nafion byproducts 1 and 2, did not decrease. A chart of the results from the finished water at Sweeney Water Treatment Plant for these two compounds is below:
DHHS informed CFPUA that, after consulting with EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they are unable to establish a health goal for Nafion at this time, due to the fact that no health studies on the effects of Nafion could be identified. However, after reviewing the results, DHHS reiterated their guidance that the public can continue to drink the water.
Given that, based upon the available data, Sweeney Water Treatment Plant is unable to effectively remove these compounds from the water, CFPUA believes Chemours needs to immediately stop all Nafion discharge to the river until sufficient data can be collected to set a health goal. DEQ has the authority to prohibit further discharge of Nafion and Nafion byproducts, and we have asked DEQ to exercise that authority immediately and without delay.
NCDEQ is the regulatory authority tasked with protecting state and federal waters and they are also responsible for preserving the health and safety of public drinking water sources, like the Cape Fear River.
In response to the presence of the compound GenX (to include the related family of “Gen X” Compounds), CFPUA has already begun several processes that we believe will apply to these new compounds as well.
Staff at Sweeney Water Treatment Plant has been conducting a pilot test of Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) and Ion Exchange (IX) technologies that have the potential to be effective in removing per-fluorinated compounds such as GenX and Nafion. As soon as the pilot test begins to produce results, CFPUA will make that information public.
Earlier this week, CFPUA entered into a contract with University of North Carolina Wilmington to continue investigating other compounds in the Cape Fear River. Today’s findings highlight the importance of this effort. We believe this study will produce results valuable to regulatory agencies at the state and federal levels as they continue to investigate whether additional regulatory action is required in the Cape Fear River Basin.
Finally, CFPUA is considering all legal actions. On August 3, CFPUA’s environmental counsel filed a Notice of Intent informing Chemours and Dupont of a citizens’ suit CFPUA intends to bring against them for violation of the Clean Water Act.
CFPUA believes NCDEQ’s duty to take decisive action. View the letter sent from CFPUA environmental counsel to DEQ, asking that DEQ revoke or modify Chemours’ NPDES permit.