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Chemours Pledges New Steps To Keep GenX Out Of River

Rusty Jacobs/ WUNC

State regulators and environmentalists have reached an agreement with chemical maker Chemours that adds new requirements for preventing contamination of the Cape Fear River.

The deal between the state Department of Environmental Quality, Cape Fear River Watch and Chemours concerns GenX and other toxic chemicals known as PFAS. It's an addendum to a February 2019 consent order that followed an investigation that began in 2017.  

The company has agreed to add a barrier wall, in-stream filters and other systems at its Fayetteville plant to prevent the chemicals from seeping into the river through groundwater and stormwater. 

NCDEQ will seek public comment on the agreement and then submit it to Bladen County Superior Court for approval.

Stopping Contamination

The Southern Environmental Law Center, which represents Cape Fear River Watch, says the order requires the company to stop 99% of PFAS from entering the river. 

Senior attorney Geoff Gisler called it "an important investment" in the river's future.

“The commitments required of the company will result in significant reductions in PFAS levels in the river quickly and ensure that communities downstream are protected over the long term,” he said.

The Cape Fear River provides drinking water for Wilmington and Brunswick and Pender counties. 

PFAS, or polyfluoroalkyl substances, such as GenX, are used in nonstick coatings, firefighting foams, and other products. They can increase the risk of cancer or cause other health problems, such as high blood pressure. 

Meanwhile, N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein said this week his office will expand an investigation into sources of PFAS. Stein's office said the goal is "to understand the extent of the damages to North Carolina’s natural resources caused by contamination from GenX and other PFAS chemicals and to further evaluate contamination elsewhere in the surface waters, soils, and groundwater of North Carolina." 

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David Boraks is a WFAE weekend host and a producer for "Charlotte Talks." He's a veteran Charlotte-area journalist who has worked part-time at WFAE since 2007 and for other outlets including and The Charlotte Observer.
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