RALEIGH, N.C. – Federal prosecutors have demanded documents, research and monitoring data from a state agency as they investigate a Fortune 500 company's release of a little-studied chemical into a river that supplies drinking water to hundreds of thousands of people, officials said Thursday.
The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality received a subpoena last week from U.S. attorneys seeking records involving discharge of the unregulated chemical GenX into the Cape Fear River. The river is the main source of the water utility serving about 200,000 people in and around Wilmington, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) downstream of the Chemours plant near Fayetteville.
The state environmental agency said it would turn over documents dating back to 2011 within three weeks to a grand jury reviewing evidence in Wilmington.
Chemours employs nearly 1,000 workers at its Bladen County plant.
"We continue to work closely with local, state and federal officials to determine the appropriate next steps," the chemical company's spokesman Gary Cambre wrote in an email.
The subpoena demanded records including "all documents purporting to authorize Chemours to discharge GenX, GenX byproducts or other fluorinated chemicals into navigable waters of the United States."
Fluorinated chemicals are used to add strength and durability to a variety of products from textiles to Teflon and police body armor. They include the chemical PFOA, a suspected carcinogen that GenX was developed to replace.
GenX has been used since 2009 to make Teflon and other non-stick products. There are no federal health standards and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies it as an "emerging contaminant" to be studied. Chemours has spent weeks rerouting GenX-laced wastewater from the river onto tankers which transport the water away for incineration.
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein has also demanded documents from Chemours related to the chemical's safety and how it compares to PFOA. Gov. Roy Cooper last week directed state criminal investigators to see if the company's plant violated any permits.
DuPont spun off Chemours two years ago. In February, DuPont and Chemours agreed to pay nearly $671 million to settle 3,500 lawsuits related to the release of PFOA from a Parkersburg, West Virginia, plant more than a decade ago. That was two months after a federal jury determined DuPont should pay $2 million to an Ohio man who says he got testicular cancer because of the company's negligence over PFOA.
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Information from: The StarNews, http://starnewsonline.com