This Week: The State Targets Chemours in Three Strong Actions

Clean Cape Fear applauds the state for its actions this week on three fronts: first, the notice of intent to suspend Chemours’ discharge permit sent Tuesday by NC Dpt. of Environmental Quality (DEQ); second, the letter of summons sent Tuesday by NC Dpt. of Justice (NCDOJ) on behalf of DEQ, and finally, the announcement Wednesday from DEQ that it will issue a notice of violation to Chemours for groundwater contamination near the plant.  

The people of the Cape Fear region deserve transparent and constructive responses from public officials at all levels of government. Clean Cape Fear is carefully tracking these actions and working to spotlight inaction and misleading information.

We are troubled by some elected officials who continue to use our water crisis to further their partisan agendas by publicly denouncing the state regulatory agencies designed to protect the people that pay their salaries. Now is the time to work together for the safety of all citizens. We encourage every elected official to support and commend the DEQ and attorney general's personnel for their assiduous efforts.

It has been four weeks since DEQ and DHHS requested critical funding to manage the Cape Fear region's water crisis as well as serve the rest of our great state's needs. Instead of adopting an "all-hands-on-deck" approach to support these efforts, many of the state legislators instead: issued a 60-point questionnaire; refused an invitation to meet to discuss the request; and required DEQ/DHHS secretaries respond to a barrage of sometimes markedly accusatory questions at a four-hour Environmental Review Commission (ERC) meeting, where another attempt to approve the $2.58 million was declined. During that meeting, DEQ Secretary Michael Regan was grilled for time spent on the investigation. He pointed out that his understaffed Division of Water Resources were working to wrangle internal documentation from Chemours and the EPA – documentation that dates back decades and is highly technical in nature – while adhering to rules under the Toxic Substances Control Act, making it easier on corporate polluters to withhold such information from the State.

Yet, through all these maneuvers and obstructions, DEQ still managed to conduct a thorough investigation and find enough evidence to: initiate suspension of Chemours’ permit; initiate civil action; and, announce that it will issue a notice of violation to Chemours.

The State is handling this matter in a thorough and still timely manner, and more importantly, in accordance with complicated state and federal laws, thereby ensuring that actions taken are enforceable and that Chemours will be held accountable.

Clean Cape Fear applauds leadership that is actively working to protect the public they are called to serve. We encourage our state legislators to step up and take real action that will have an impact on our state’s environmental and public health. 

Why are state legislators withholding funding for DEQ and DHHS?  Why instead, did they give state tax dollars to CFPUA and UNCW for water treatment tests that could take 12-16 months? Why have state legislators refused to create a collaborative program between UNCW and NC State University, where scientists like Dr. Detlaf Knappe have been studying these compounds for years in a state-of-the-art laboratory?  Why are state legislators obstructing DHHS's request to hire more toxicologists to better understand these chemicals and their effects on our health?

Clean Cape Fear hopes our legislators are inspired by DEQ’s and NCDOJ’s stalwart approach and will follow suit.  It’s time for the NC General Assembly to work with all state agencies and the governor's office to ensure Chemours is held accountable for their malfeasance.

Dana SargentComment