An investigation by North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality found evidence that Chemours Company has, for years, allowed a chemical nicknamed GenX to leak into the state’s air and water. Chemours is formerly a part of DuPont, and the agency alleges both companies actively misled the State about the leaks and their dangers. The State has now filed a lawsuit against Chemours.
GenX is a compound used in making Teflon and other non-stick materials. It has been in use since 2009, when it replaced perfluorooctanoic acid, a chemical blamed for an increased risk of cancer.
According to the Associated Press, both the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the federal Environmental Protection Agency have said GenX “may present an unreasonable risk of injury to human health and the environment.” Studies of GenX and related chemicals have indicated toxic effects on animals, but the chemicals’ effects on human health have not been determined. It has been classified as an “emerging contaminant”, but federal health standards have not been set.
The lawsuit claims the Chemours plant, located near Fayetteville, has discharged GenX into the Cape Fear River for years. These compounds have since been found in the state’s air, surface water and ground water as far away as Wilmington, which is 100 miles southeast of Fayetteville.
The State also claims that Chemours and its predecessor DuPont lied about the discharges.
“Despite knowledge of health risks associated with GenX, Chemours failed to disclose the presence of GenX in its process wastewater, and even made statements that misled [the Department of Environmental Quality] as to the presence of GenX,” the lawsuit reads.
It goes on to say that GenX has caused “significant and widespread groundwater contamination,” and that it falls to the ground in rainwater for miles around “at levels that far exceed emission rates previously reported to [the Department of Environmental Quality].
According to the lawsuit, DuPont owed and Chemours owes a legal duty to accurately report what chemicals they are dumping into the state’s waterways and groundwater. If the company has knowingly allowed the discharge of harmful chemicals into public drinking water, they should not simply be fined. They should be required to clean the chemical up and also to pay for any harm they have caused.