The Wilmington City Council is throwing its support behind Cape Fear Public Utility Authority’s request to stop production at Chemours’ Fayetteville Works plant. The resolution, directed to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, asks regulators to require the company to stop all operations that produce perfluorinated compounds like GenX. The resolution is not binding, but does send a message.
Kevin O’Grady of the Wilmington City Council says passing the resolution supporting the CFPUA is a move of unity.
“I think it shows solidarity of the community. I hope some of the other towns downstream from Chemours will pass it so there is a united front showing that we need some action from our state government. So far they have not done very much.”
Mayor Bill Saffo agrees.
“It means that we want to speak with one voice from New Hanover County, the County Commissioners, the CFPUA, and the City Council feels that we should also pass a resolution in support of those resolutions and to speak with one voice from New Hanover County that we do not want this in our drinking water. We don’t want it in the Cape Fear River. So we want to be very clear and we want to make sure the citizens know that we are continuing to put pressure on this company, on the EPA, on DEQ, to make certain they are doing their job and make certain that Chemours doesn’t put any more of this stuff into the river.”
Lindsey Hallock, CFPUA’s Environmental Policy Director, says local support is important.
“I think that having local, governmental agencies pass resolutions like this will really show that our community is united, in its desire to get this discharge under control. We still see a lot of concern in the community. Show them that as a community we are determined to keep pushing this issue.”
But what CFPUA is asking DEQ to do, essentially shut down Chemours, isn’t easy.
“It is a big request. Vince I would remind you and the listeners that the department did partially suspend the Chemours wastewater discharge permit, it was effective back on November 30.”
That’s Sheila Holman, Assistant Secretary for the Environment, at the Department of Environmental Quality.
“We’re certainly evaluating CFPUA’s request, we’re looking at that very carefully. I think the main issue that I want to make sure everyone understands is that DEQ works to insure that companies statewide operate safely according to the state and federal regulations.”
“We are still reviewing that and considering options, we have recently taken samples from the other two companies wastewater streams, and we’re waiting for the results to come back from those data samples.”
Meanwhile, scientists around the world are continuing to explore the impact of these chemicals.
The compound C8 was phased out, and replaced by GenX, because Chemours and DuPont chemists said a shorter chain compound is not as toxic. However a recent study from Sweden questions that assertion.
Melissa Gomis is with the Department of Environmental Science and Analytical Chemistry at Stockholm University, in Sweden.
She recently completed an independent study on perfluorinated compounds like C8 and GenX and their effect on lab rats.
“In this study we compared the toxic potency of long-chain perfluorinated compounds, with the perfluorinated compounds that are replacing them. Compounds like GenX. What we found is that the long-chain perfluorinated compounds, the short-chain perfluorinated compounds, and GenX have similar toxic potency – in terms of the specific end point that we have been investigating which is the increase of liver weight in male rats. So what it means is that it is not the particular structure of the chemical that will trigger the effect. It is more the amount of molecules regardless of the structure, that is at the target site that will make an effect.”
Her report was published this year. She says the results indicate that the alternatives to legacy perfluorinated compounds, like C8, could likely be as potent as their predecessors.