EPA reverses GenX recycling plan after bipartisan concern

This photo taken Friday, June 15, 2018 near Fayetteville, N.C. shows the signage of the Fayetteville Works plant where the Delaware-based Chemours Company manufactures C3 dimer acid, also known as GenX. The chemical has entered the Cape Fear River, a source of drinking water fora much of the southeastern part of the state for a unknown time period. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

RALEIGH — A controversial plan was reversed last month that would have imported 4 million tons of water containing forever chemical GenX to a Chemours facility in Fayetteville.

In a letter sent to Gov. Roy Cooper, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan said incorrect information from Chemours led him to reverse the decision.

“Recently, during its review of the conditional import consent granted to Chemours, EPA, working with NCDEQ, became aware that that the company did not provide accurate information in its notifications to the Netherlands’ Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management,” wrote Regan.

Administrator Regan, who worked as Gov. Cooper’s environmental secretary until departing for the EPA in 2021, said the import agreement would “no longer be valid if any of the information contained in the notification, upon which EPA relies, is incorrect, incomplete or fraudulent.”

In mid-November, Chemours told NCDEQ there was an error in calculating the requested permitted volume that was not identified during the approval process, meaning the and the amount provided was “not a correct estimation of actual volumes.” The error meant that the company could not process the amount of waste containing GenX it said it previously stated it could.

“Therefore, consents to the import of waste from the Netherlands into the United States are no longer valid,” Regan’s letter stated.

Three Republicans in North Carolina’s Congressional delegation: Sen. Thom Tillis and Reps. Richard Hudson (NC-08) and David Rouzer (NC-07) questioned the decision as well.

The three wrote to Regan as well, stating that the initial decision to allow the shipment was worrisome and the agency’s behavior following the decision was “perplexing and of utmost concern.”

Continuing, the three Republicans pointed to shifting explanations for the import of the waste as the EPA stated first it could not deny the shipment, then a reevaluation, and then the error in calculations admission from Chemours following an inquiry from NCDEQ.

“It therefore defies logic that the state was not informed of this decision. One could easily argue it was a breach of responsibility,” the trio’s letter continued.

By Nov. 29, the date of Regan’s letter to Cooper, the import was canceled.

“I am glad the EPA reversed its decision to allow wastewater with GenX to be sent to a facility in Fayetteville. It is vital all North Carolinians have access to safe water, and I’ll continue my work to address the risks posed by emerging PFAS contaminants,” said Tillis.

Cooper issued a lengthy statement taking credit for the decision.

“It’s good that the EPA reversed this decision and I’m grateful for their quick response. We have been working for years in North Carolina to force the cleanup of forever chemicals to help ensure clean water, and companies like Chemours have made this effort more difficult,” said Cooper in his statement.

Chemours, for their part, stated in a Nov. 21 letter that communication around the company and the recycling plan was “unfortunate” and the transport of materials from the Netherlands to the Fayetteville facility would reduce global emissions.

The company added that the Fayetteville facility would ship its waste recycled there to other facilities and pointed to other actions, such as its barrier wall near the Cape Fear River and work to reduce the amount of chemicals present, as ways it is helping the state reduce the overall amount of chemicals present in the state’s air and water.