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EPA Didn’t Track Chemours’ GenX Emissions: Watchdog (Corrected)

May 28, 2020, 3:25 PMUpdated: May 28, 2020, 6:30 PM

The EPA failed to oversee Chemours Co. efforts to control emissions of the PFAS chemicals called GenX, the agency’s inspector general said in a report released Thursday.

The so-called forever chemicals, also known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, have been found in North Carolina’s Cape Fear River near Chemours’s Fayetteville chemical plant and across the country. The company has told the state that the GenX chemicals associated with the Fayetteville plant don’t threaten health and don’t need to be cleaned up.

The EPA ordered the company in 2009 to determine how to capture 99% of its GenX manufacturing discharges and air emissions from that facility, as well as how to protect its workers from GenX exposure.

But the EPA’s enforcement office didn’t follow up with inspections, and regional inspectors weren’t aware of the order, according to the inspector general.

After finding GenX in the environment, North Carolina officials determined an unsafe amount of the chemicals had contaminated drinking water.

As of the end of last year, the state has tested more than 2,000 wells. About 200 of them have unsafe levels of PFAS chemicals and will need to have filters installed, or residents will need to be connected to a safe municipal water supply, according to the state.

‘Insufficient Communication’

The inspector general found “insufficient communication and coordination” between the two EPA offices responsible for developing and enforcing the consent order.

In its response to the report, the agency said the two offices “have already enhanced coordination” and have a new internal protocol for tracking orders.

The EPA received notices from DuPont Inc., Chemours’ predecessor, in 2008 that it would manufacture two new GenX chemicals. The agency issued the consent order regarding GenX emissions in 2009. The company has a separate consent order with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality regarding all sources of PFAS from its Fayetteville facility.

The company declined to comment.

The EPA’s inspector general decided in September to start evaluating the steps the agency took to verify Chemours was preventing GenX from being released into the Cape Fear River basin.

PFAS chemicals may cause adverse health effects, including developmental harm to fetuses, testicular and kidney cancer, liver tissue damage, immune system or thyroid effects, and changes in cholesterol, according to the EPA.

(Corrected characterization of EPA's enforcement in first paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Sylvia Carignan in Washington at scarignan@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergindustry.com; Rebecca Baker at rbaker@bloombergindustry.com

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