Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) has asked a Bladen County Superior Court to grant it equal standing with the State and Cape Fear River Watch (CFRW) in negotiations about measures Chemours must take to address the company’s PFAS releases, including contamination in the drinking water of CFPUA’s customers.
A motion to intervene filed with the court late Wednesday describes key instances where CFPUA was not consulted about important proposals to address the burdens CFPUA and our community bear for Chemours’ contamination. Most recently, an addendum to the Consent Order was announced August 13 outlining steps Chemours says will result in significant reductions of PFAS entering the river from groundwater and stormwater runoff at its highly contaminated industrial site. The addendum gives Chemours until 2025 to demonstrate it can accomplish this feat.
To be sure, many of the measures Chemours is being compelled to undertake appear to be positive steps toward providing some relief to the hundreds of thousands of people affected by Chemours’ pollution. However, obvious gaps remain between standards being applied to drinking water for CFPUA’s customers and that of a few thousand private well owners near the Chemours industrial site, and between the different remedies deemed sufficient for well owners and CFPUA’s customers, all of whom are North Carolina residents.
The State has rightly insisted that Chemours pay for measures to provide safe drinking water for any owner of a private well near the Chemours site found to contain PFAS at concentrations of 10 parts per trillion (ppt) for any one compound or 70 ppt for the total of all PFAS. Deadlines for the steps Chemours must take for these well owners are measured in days or months.
In contrast, CFPUA’s customers and others who rely on the Cape Fear River for their drinking water are told to wait years for promised PFAS reductions measured in percentages. CFPUA began construction in November 2019 on treatment enhancements to the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant, which draws raw water from the Cape Fear River. The Granular Activated Carbon filters being constructed will come online in early 2022, three years before Chemours must prove it fulfilled the PFAS reductions promised in the recently announced addendum. The $43 million cost to build the enhancements, as well as the estimated $2.9 million to operate the additional filters each year, are being borne by CFPUA’s customers, not Chemours.
“We believe all North Carolina residents, including our customers, deserve equal treatment and protection,” CFPUA Executive Director Jim Flechtner said. “We have made this point consistently over the past several months. Clearly, the best way to obtain equitable treatment for CFPUA’s customers and our community is for us to be at the negotiating table.”