Chemours told to cut GenX emissions
State regulators filed a court order in June that would force chemical manufacturer Chemours to cut air emissions and address groundwater contamination caused by leaks stemming from its Fayetteville Works plant in Cumberland County. It’s been just over a year since more than 200,000 New Hanover and Brunswick County residents learned that their drinking water has been contaminated by a potentially carcinogenic chemical compound popularly known as GenX. Wilmington, Del.-based Chemours faces a series of suits and complaints after it was found that its Fayetteville plant 90 miles upstream from Wilmington has been the root of GenX emissions in the air and water since the 1980s.
The Department of Environmental Quality’s proposed order calls for the plant to cut air emissions by 97% by August and 99% by the end of 2019. DEQ is urging the company to retest the drinking-water wells as often as quarterly and provide water or treatment systems to houses impacted by the contamination.
Chemours has vowed to invest more than $100 million in new equipment to eliminate 99% of all air emissions. The improvements are expected to be completed by late 2019 or early 2020. In the meantime, the company promises to reduce emissions by 70% over the next several months.
GenX is a man-made chemical compound found in the material Teflon, which is best known as a coating surface for cookware. Although little is known about the chemical’s effects on human health, a UNC Wilmington biology professor told Brunswick County commissioners in December to “get past the idea that it’s harmless.” Larry Cahoon said GenX “is toxic. It’s corrosive. We know that.”
Laboratory studies testing GenX on animals show negative effects to the liver and blood, along with cancer of the liver, pancreas, and testicles, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. A team of scientists led by N.C. State University professor Jane Hoppin is analyzing blood drawn from about 300 New Hanover County residents in November who likely drank water containing GenX. While there are no federal guidelines for GenX emissions, North Carolina health officials have established goals to limit the amount of the chemical in the water and air.
DuPont spun off Chemours in 2015. Over the last year, Chemours shares have gained more than 30%, and the company had a market value of $8.7 million in mid-June.
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