By Emily Featherston | October 14, 2020 at 4:50 PM EDT – Updated October 14 at 7:13 PM
SOUTHEASTERN NORTH CAROLINA (WECT) – From updates to a mitigation consent order to lawsuits demanding financial damages from companies, the last few weeks have seen continued developments in the exploration of GenX and other Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
Advocates like Cape Fear River Watch, which has been one of the groups at the forefront of the issue since it was discovered in 2017, said the newest lawsuit against Chemours and DuPont—filed by North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein—was another piece of welcome news.
“Cape Fear River Watch is honestly really pleased that the attorney general has taken this action,” said Executive Director Dana Sergant.
Sergant said they were particularly glad to see the inclusion of DuPont as one of the defendants along with Chemours.
“DuPont has been here for 40 years…polluting our river, polluting our drinking water,” she said. “And they did that knowingly. And so they should not be let off the hook, just because their name is no longer associated with the PFAS coming out of the Chemours facility.”
DuPont and Chemours parted ways a few years ago, which led to litigation itself with Chemours complaining DuPont unfairly saddled it with liabilities.
But the divestiture of Chemours by DuPont also figures in a set of three other lawsuits that have been filed by the residents who live near the plant, both individually and as a class.
Those lawsuits, filed in September, allege the companies trespassed on the plaintiff’s property by way of the PFAS discharges, as well as alleging they were negligent and caused harm to the plaintiffs by endangering their health and causing their property values to fall.
The cases have since been moved to federal court, and the defendants have filed motions to dismiss the actions.
Sergant said she thinks the additional lawsuits are a welcome addition to the push to eliminate the contaminants.
“I think it’s a testament to the people and the community members really standing up and saying, ‘Enough is enough.’ You know? People are sick, people are dying, and these companies continue to reap the benefits of the manufacturing release of these chemicals, and they know they’re unhealthy. They know they’re dangerous, and they need to be held accountable.”
Still, Sergant said the enforcement side of things could improve.
Earlier this week, a judge approved amendments to Chemours’ consent agreement with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and other parties, adding requirements for continued clean up efforts and mitigation of the chemicals that have already been discharged.
However, Sergant said that doesn’t stop the use of the chemicals on a greater scale, and she believes more needs to be done.
“DEQ does a lot in terms of mitigation, in terms of stopping the pollution at the source, in terms of cleaning up the river. I think, in terms of regulation, DEQ has the authority to regulate now, and so we need to continue to press our regulatory bodies to do that regulation.”
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