NC DEQ issues notice of violation over GenX spill

| November 16, 2017

by Matt Caulder, NC Capitol Connection, November 15, 2017.

State environmental leaders handed down an official notice Wednesdy? of violations (NOV) to Chemours for the unreported Oct. 6 GenX precursor chemical spill at its Fayetteville Works facility.

The spill resulted in a significant spike in the compound in the Cape Fear River.

The violation of the facility’s wastewater discharge permit carries a maximum penalty of $25,000, according to the NOV filed by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Monday, but may also threaten the facility’s water discharge permit.

The filing lists two violations made at Chemours’ Fayetteville Works facility, both having to do with the failure to report the spill and not the occurrence of the spill itself.

The news comes on the heels of a partial consent agreement between Chemours and DEQ on how to mitigate the GenX situation, and the October announcement that the state would not pull Chemours’ National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, after initiating an investigation into whether to pull the permit in early September.

Linda Culpepper, deputy director of the DEQ Division of Water Resources, sent a letter to the plant manger of the Fayetteville Works facility in October stating that after Chemours’ actions to address the state’s concerns in regards to GenX contamination, that it would not pull the facility’s permit, but that question is on the table again according to DEQ Communications Director Jamie Kritzer.

Kritzer said, “We are considering all possible enforcement actions with relation to the company, and the partial consent order and the companies discharge permit.”

The question still remains if the spill went unreported because of inaction by lower level employees of the facility, or by a decision of management at the plant or further up river.

Kitzer says that is one of the questions that the state is working to answer as its investigation moves forward.

“We are trying to determine as part of our investigation into the spill how it occurred and why we were not informed as the permit requires,” Kitzer said.

The investigation has already turned up more information on how the spill occurred.

An undetermined amount of C3 Dimer Acid Fluoride for the facility’s Vinyl Ethers South Stack spilled onto the ground on Oct. 6, and over the next three days was washed into one of the facility’s outfalls and discharged into the Cape Fear River.

The timeline of events gives some explanation as to why the levels of GenX seen in the Cape Fear River, as recorded by Chemours and released to the state at its request, spiked on Oct. 9 and not directly following the spill.

Chemours’ own preliminary test results from water samples collected at the facility outfall around the time of the spill showed concentrations of GenX at Chemours’ wastewater discharge outfall increasing to 250 parts per trillion on Oct. 6, the day of the spill, and peaking at 3,700 parts per trillion on Oct. 9.

The state established a health goal for GenX at 140 parts per trillion.

Prior to the spill, water samples collected between Oct. 2 and Oct. 5 show concentrations of GenX at Chemours’ wastewater discharge outfall between 35 and 69 parts per trillion.

The spill was discovered after DEQ officials questioned Chemours about elevated concentrations of GenX at Chemours’ primary wastewater discharge outfall after preliminary testing data from the Environmental Protection Agency became available showing the unexpected increase in GenX.

Chemours has 10 days to respond to the state’s NOV. The company has been directed to provide information on the duration of the spill, and the quantity of the C3 Dimer Acid Fluoride that was washed into the river as runoff. Additionally, they are required to submit a description of all remedial measures taken to address the spill from the time it occurred until the present time.

The Chemours permit requires that DEQ be notified within 24 hours of any discharge of significant amounts of waste that are abnormal in quantity or characteristic, as well as any non-compliance that potentially threatens public health or the environment.

“It is both unlawful and unacceptable for a company to fail to report a chemical spill to the state and public as soon as possible,” DEQ Secretary Michael Regan said. “We will take all appropriate enforcement action to hold Chemours accountable for failing to comply with its permit.”

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