EPA denies Chemours permission to ship PFAS-laden wastewater to NC, reversing course

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday that it won’t allow Chemours to send wastewater containing the forever chemical known as GenX to a North Carolina plant for recycling, rescinding a September approval.

The EPA said Chemours provided inaccurate information on its notification that it was planning to ship wastewater from its plant in the Netherlands to Fayetteville Works.

“EPA is committed to protecting public health and the environment from PFAS pollution. To deliver on that mission, it is imperative that it receives accurate information to inform our decisions. In this case, by Chemours’ own admission, the information it submitted in its notification was inaccurate,” an EPA spokesman said in an email.

N.C. Newsline first reported that the EPA had approved Chemours’ request to ship the wastewater and that the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality was unaware it was happening.

Shortly after the first reports, amid outcry from local community groups and elected officials, the EPA asked Chemours to halt any shipments while it reviewed documents the company had provided regulators. EPA officials previously said that although the shipments were approved in September, none took place in 2023 before the Nov. 6 pause.

Last week, amid that pause, 70 organizations and community groups sent the EPA a letter calling on it to deny Chemours’ request. Signers included Cape Fear River Watch, Clean Cape Fear and the N.C. Conservation Network.

Officials from both major political parties have criticized the EPA’s initial decision to allow the shipments.

On Nov. 3, Gov. Roy Cooper sent EPA Administrator Michael Regan a letter calling for the shipments to be prevented.

During Cooper’s first term in office, he hired Regan to serve as secretary of DEQ. Chemours and PFAS quickly emerged as one of the largest environmental issues facing the state during Regan’s tenure as secretary.

“This approval should be reconsidered and reversed,” Cooper wrote. “The introduction of a large quantity of PFAS-containing waste material into North Carolina is a significant setback for our ongoing efforts to limit PFAS impacts on the environment in North Carolina.”

Congressional Republicans including Sen. Thom Tillis, Fayetteville-area Rep. Richard Hudson and Wilmington-area Republican Rep. David Rouzer sent Regan a Nov. 15 letter questioning why the EPA had agreed to allow shipments of GenX, a chemical the agency has said it intends to propose adding to a list of hazardous substances.

“To this day, we still do not fully know the scope of the presence and impact of these chemicals. It should be no surprise that we find the news of these imported chemicals to the Fayetteville Works facility where extensive water contamination has occurred for years to be disturbing,” the Republicans wrote.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

This story was produced with financial support from the Hartfield Foundation and 1Earth Fund, in partnership with Journalism Funding Partners, as part of an independent journalism fellowship program. The N&O maintains full editorial control of the work.