FAYETTEVILLE — Chemours began installing off-site groundwater monitoring wells on Tuesday in Robeson, Bladen and Cumberland counties.
Installation of the wells is a part of the company’s implementation activities under a consent order with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and Cape Fear River Watch, according to information from Chemours. The order arose from the investigation of the discharge of potentially harmful chemicals into the Cape Fear River basin more than two years ago.
Environmental professionals from Geosyntec and their subcontractors will be installing monitoring wells in public right-of-way areas throughout the three counties, according to Chemours. The process is expected to take about a month.
“The well locations have been selected to be distant from surrounding homes to limit disturbances to local area residents,” Lisa Randall, a company spokesperson, said in a statement. “Area residents should not be concerned if they see an environmental professional gathering samples from right-of-way areas near their properties.”
Chemours also is continuing to contract with Parsons and its subcontractors to sample area wells, provide water sampling results and install water filtration systems for residents in Cumberland, Bladen and Robeson counties as part of the agreement, according to the company.
“We were recently made aware that one or more companies not contracted by Chemours have been approaching residents regarding similar water testing and filtration services, possibly in an effort to secure new business,” Randall wrote. “Chemours is urging area residents to be cautious when contacted about water sampling or water sampling results. All Parsons field personnel wear safety vests with the Parsons name, have vehicles marked with the Parsons logo, and they can present Parsons identification badges when asked.”
Residents needing to verify the working location or identity of Geosyntec or Parsons field personnel can call 910-678-1101.
A state judge finalized the revised settlement agreement in February. The agreement committed the company to speeding up plans to reduce chemicals reaching downstream public water utilities, to paying $13 million in penalties, to sharply reduce air emissions of the nonstick compound known as GenX, and spend millions to provide permanent replacement drinking water supplies to neighbors with contaminated water wells.
Chemours, a Fortune 500 company that was spun off from DuPont in 2015, also agreed to conduct health studies into the risks posed by releasing GenX and other per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, into the environment. PFAS are used in nonstick coatings on products ranging from pans to fast-food wrappers, and in firefighting foam.
Chemours denied it violated any law, regulation or permit and said the deal it struck simply allowed it to avoid the expense and risks of litigation while addressing public concerns.
There are no federal health standards for GenX. The EPA classifies GenX as an “emerging contaminant” needing research. But animal studies show GenX has the potential to affect the kidneys, blood, immune system, liver and developing fetuses after oral exposure, the EPA said in a draft report released in February before the agreement was completed.
The deal with Chemours doesn’t affect lawsuits by residents and Wilmington’s water utility, which is about 100 miles downstream from the Chemours plant, against Chemours or DuPont.
The discharge and resulting investigation reached into Robeson County.
Shortly after the discharge became public, the Robeson County Health Department tested 27 wells in northeast Robeson County for GenX with one testing above the state GenX limit and another far above the limit for GenX and a related chemical combined. Twenty-five of the wells tested positive for some amount of GenX.
The Robeson County wells were within three to four miles of the Chemours plant, which is located on N.C. 87 at the Cumberland/Bladen county line. The Lumber River basin reaches within one mile of the plant.