CFPUA today submitted comments on a draft permit that would allow Chemours to discharge into the Cape Fear River as much as 1.58 million gallons of wastewater a day resulting from a treatment system the company says will reduce per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in surface water, stormwater, and groundwater from Chemours’ industrial site on the Cumberland-Bladen county line.
In part, the CFPUA’s comments state:
Overall, we find the proposed discharge permit and treatment system are the latest in an ongoing succession of partial measures Chemours promises to undertake to fulfill its obligations under the February 2019 consent order meant to address decades of PFAS contamination in the Cape Fear River by Chemours and the company that created it, DuPont. Like so many of Chemours’ previous proposals under this consent order, the stated PFAS-reduction goals meant to benefit hundreds of thousands of downstream water users such as CFPUA’s customers fall far short of the far more specific, timely measures afforded a few thousand private well owners around the Chemours site. These well owners rightly obtain relief, at Chemours’ expense, almost immediately upon determination that their drinking water contains more than 10 parts per trillion (ppt) of any one PFAS compound or if the total of all PFAS in their water is above 70 ppt. These standards have not been applied to downstream water users, including CFPUA’s customers, despite overwhelming evidence that their source water routinely contains concentrations exceeding the 10/70 thresholds. Instead of immediate relief, downstream water users are asked to pin their hopes on Chemours’ promises to implement measures with uncertain outcomes some time in the coming years.
We note that granular activated carbon (GAC) is the centerpiece of the Chemours-funded PFAS treatment system that will result in the discharge governed by this permit. Chemours also has paid to install GAC filters for dozens of private well owners near their industrial site. A large-scale GAC filter system is under construction at CFPUA’s Sweeney Water Treatment Plant, which sources its raw water from the Cape Fear River. This $43 million addition is being built solely to address Chemours’ and DuPont’s PFAS contamination in the Cape Fear River. Yet, while State regulators and attorneys have compelled Chemours to fund the wastewater treatment facility connected to this permit and pay for GAC filters installed in private homes near its plant, the State so far has not similarly required Chemours to contribute even a single dime from the corporation’s highly profitable operations to provide an equivalent remedy for CFPUA’s customers. Instead, as things stand, more than 200,000 people in New Hanover County are being left to pay for necessary treatment and fund their own legal action to try to recoup these costs. We have made this point in previous comments to the State and still have received no satisfactory explanation for this obvious disparity. The message to CFPUA and its customers seems to be: Want more timely relief from Chemours’ pollution? Pay for it yourselves.
A copy of CFPUA’s comments may be found here.
It is important to note that this draft permit is separate from the discharge permit that governs Chemours’ discharges from its chemical manufacturing processes. That permit is still pending.