The EPA has rejected a request from six North Carolina environmental health groups to force
The petitioners failed to prove the requested data was needed, the Environmental Protection Agency said in a decision posted online late Thursday.
Chemours spokesman Thom Sueta said the company is pleased with the EPA’s decision and agrees with the agency that the groups had failed to provide justification the Toxic Substances Control Act requires to compel the requested tests.
The six groups that asked the agency to require the data—the Center for Environmental Health, Cape Fear River Watch, Clean Cape Fear, Democracy Green, NC Black Alliance, and Toxic Free NC—said in a statement that the rejection was yet another case of the Trump administration prioritizing “the profit margins of corporate polluters” instead of public health.
But “we’re seeing a new dawn coming very soon,” said La’Meshia Whittington, campaign director of the North Carolina Black Alliance.
The Biden administration’s platform pledges to work on PFAS specifically, and address racial and other disparities that cause some groups to be more highly exposed to pollutants than others. The alliance is discussing strategies to continue its efforts to get needed data about the chemicals, she said.
Emily Donovan, co-founder of Clean Cape Fear, said her group is organizing a community sign-on letter so people can show their support for the petition.
“We plan to deliver it to the new Biden EPA team once everyone has been confirmed,” she said.
Risks From Chemicals
The groups’ petition said the 54 per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, that Chemours produces warranted testing because they met the Toxic Substances Control Act’s criteria for potentially posing an unreasonable risk to people or the environment.
The tests would provide needed information on the chemicals’ health and environmental effects, it said. Nearly 300,000 people in communities around Chemours’ Fayetteville plant have been exposed to the substances, according to the petition.
Sueta, however, said several of the chemicals the groups cited in their petition “have no known connection” to Chemours’ Fayetteville Works facility. Others are byproducts and intermediaries that occur in such small—and decreasing—amounts “that it would be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to manufacture the volumes required for testing,” he said.
PFAS is a name for thousands of chemicals, some of which are known to remain in the environment and people’s bodies for many years, giving them the moniker “forever chemicals.”
These long-lived chemicals have the potential of causing immune system, cancer, and other problems. That has made them of increased state and federal interest. It has also spurred lawsuits against companies like the 3M Co., DuPont, and Chemours that have or are making PFAS, and companies like Wolverine World Wide Inc., which have used them.
“We’re not surprised, but we are disappointed” by EPA’s rejection of the request, Whittington said.
The agency’s response is a “smokescreen” of “propaganda” in which it highlights actions it is taking on PFAS, she said. She said the EPA failed to acknowledge its actions won’t provide the information local residents need to understand how these specific chemicals may harm their health—chemicals which are in local residents’ blood and drinking water, and found in groundwater, soil, air, and locally produced food adjacent to and downstream from the plant.
The EPA’s notice, however, said the agency’s “denial is not based on lack of concern with PFAS.”
“EPA continues its robust efforts under TSCA, and across the agency, to address PFAS risks, including identifying and cleaning up PFAS contamination, expanding monitoring of PFAS, increasing PFAS scientific research, and exercising effective enforcement tools,” spokesman James Hewitt said.