The state Division of Air Quality (DAQ) on Friday moved to prohibit air emissions from Chemours’ Fayetteville Works facility if it can’t prove that it will not be a future risk to further contaminate groundwater with GenX.
The letter from DAQ, within the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), announced the state’s intention to permanently pull Chemours’ emissions permit, and gives Chemours three weeks to demonstrate that emissions from the facility do not contribute to groundwater violations.
The response can be demonstrative of current practices, showing that current operations do not contribute to groundwater contamination, or can show “or alternate operating conditions” that would be proposed by the facility to eliminate groundwater contamination after GenX was found in rainwater earlier this year as well is air emissions captured from the facility.
Chemours must show to DEQ’s satisfaction that they can operate without further contamination of groundwater or we will prohibit all GenX air emissions,” DEQ Secretary Michael Regan said.
The notice from DAQ does not lay any additional requirements on Chemours but merely requires the company to show compliance with its current air quality permit requirements and show that emissions from the plant will not further contaminate the groundwater supply in the area.
GenX has been found in rainwater, groundwater, in the Cape Fear River, in a food product in the area of the plant and also in the air emissions coming from the plant.
According to DEQ, depending on Chemours’ response one of three things may happen.
If there is no response and the state finds that the plant has failed to “demonstrate that the facility’s emissions do not contribute to groundwater violations” then DEQ will move to permanently prohibit emissions of GenX from the facility, likely effective at the end of the 60-day notice period.
If Chemours does respond and it is found that current conditions at the facility will not add to groundwater contamination then the permit would remain intact, however if it is found some modifications are needed to the way that facility operates those would be reflected in the operating permit.
The department’s decision to lay the requirements on Chemours come following a period of data collection over the beginning of the year looking at levels of GenX in the air and various sectors of the hydrosphere in the area, data of which was released alongside the notice of air permit restrictions.
DAQ tested rainwater for GenX during rain events from Feb. 28-March 2 and found GenX levels between 45 parts per trillion and 810 parts per trillion at a total of 13 locations within seven miles of the Fayetteville Works facility.
While the upper range is significantly higher than the state’s provisional health goal of 140 parts per trillion for drinking water, DAQ warns that the health goal should not be compared to rainwater concentrations as rainwater is not intended for direct consumption.
Looking at Chemours’ data for air emissions, tracked as part of a requirement from DAQ, the state estimates Chemours’ annual GenX emissions to be more than 2,700 pounds.
This value eclipses the early-2017 estimate from Chemours about 40 times is four times higher than Chemours’ revised estimate submitted to DAQ in October 2017.