Chemours’ Fayetteville plant leaked chemicals into the air this week, NC officials say

Chemours plant (AboveCarolina.com)

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — A Fayetteville chemical plant that has been at the center of a chemical spill controversy is now being investigated for an air emission leak, state officials said Friday.

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality is trying to determine if a 13-hour air leak from the Chemours plant on Tuesday “constitutes a violation of the company’s air permit,” officials said in a news release.

On Thursday, state officials moved to revoke Chemours’ permit because officials said the company failed to comply with its permit and failed to report an unrelated spill that occurred in October.

RELATED: Full coverage of Chemours and GenX

Authorities said company officials reported the recent air leak Wednesday and said the leak happened around 5:40 p.m. Tuesday.

The leak happened in the vinyl ether manufacturing area and lasted about 13 hours before the company stopped the leak, the company told state officials.

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The leak came from a condensation tower on the company’s Fayetteville Works property, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality said in the news release.

Chemours was able to isolate the equipment and repair a valve they believe to be the source of the leak, which company officials said was 55 pounds of hexafluoropropylene oxide and 70 pounds of HFPO dimer acid fluoride.

The DEQ is continuing to monitor air quality emissions as part of its investigation.

DEQ said Thursday it is moving to revoke Chemours’ permit to discharge wastewater from operations at its Fayetteville plant into a neighboring river.

Tom Keister lives in Cumberland County a little more than a mile away from Chemours.

He went to Chemours to pick up more bottled water Friday morning.

The company tested his well water for GenX about a month ago, but he still hasn’t heard the results.

“I’d like to know,” he told CBS North Carolina on Friday.

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality announced it is moving to revoke Chemours’ permit to discharge wastewater because of an unreported spill in early October.  At the end of the month, the state also will suspend the company’s permit to discharge wastewater from areas where GenX is produced.

“It is unacceptable,” said Sheila Holman, Assistant Secretary for the Environment with DEQ.  “It is clearly a requirement.  A leak of that size should have been reported to the agency and it wasn’t.”

Regulators say the discharge ban could come in 60 days because the company failed to report a spill last month of a precursor of the chemical GenX.

The agency said this week it was considering fining the Wilmington, Delaware-based company for failing to report the spill.

Gary Cambre, Senior Communications Manager with Chemours, released a statement, saying:

“We believe the NC DEQ’s stated intention to suspend and revoke the process wastewater discharge permit for Fayetteville Works is unwarranted.  The Company has worked in good faith to cooperate fully with all of DEQ’s requests, including capturing all wastewater they have previously requested that we capture.  While we do not believe there is a legal basis on which to suspend or revoke the permit, we will accept the DWR’s invitation in its letter that we meet with them and look forward to discussing a path forward.  We remain committed to operating this facility, which employs hundreds of North Carolina residents, in accordance with all applicable laws and in a manner that respects the environment and public health and safety.”

CBS North Carolina asked Holman to respond.

“We do believe we’re acting on all of our legal authority,” she said.  “We certainly believe that the community is expecting us to do our jobs.”

Keister hopes the situation is resolved soon.

“It’s a big mess,” he said.

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