North Carolina Groups Announce EPA Will Act On PFAS Testing Petition Within 90 Days
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Commitment by EPA Sets Stage for Orders Requiring Chemours to Fund Critical Health Studies on PFAS Contaminating Drinking Water from the Cape Fear River
WILMINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA – Six North Carolina public health and environmental justice groups announced today that EPA has committed to a decision within 90 days on the group’s October 14, 2020 petition to require health effects testing by Chemours under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). This testing would provide Cape Fear River basin communities with vital information on the health impacts of decades of pollution from Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) (also known as “Forever Chemicals”) released to the environment from the Chemours (formerly DuPont) facility in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
The six groups are: Center for Environmental Health, Cape Fear River Watch, Clean Cape Fear, Democracy Green, the NC Black Alliance, and Toxic Free NC.
The EPA commitment came in letters to the groups from Michal Freedhoff, Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, informing them that EPA would expeditiously reconsider the Trump Administration’s January 7, 2021 denial of the petition and decide within 90 days whether to grant the petition and require testing.
Six months earlier, the groups filed a lawsuit in the Federal District Court for the Northern District of California challenging the petition denial. The groups also wrote to Administrator Regan seeking a meeting with him and asking him to overturn the Trump petition denial and grant the petition.
EPA’s commitment is also expressed in a stipulation jointly filed with the court to hold in abeyance for 90 days the group’s March 3, 2021 lawsuit challenging the petition denial while EPA works toward a definitive and comprehensive decision on the petition. The group’s petition under section 21 of TSCA seeks testing orders on 54 PFAS released into the environment by Chemours.
Several of these PFAS have been detected in the Cape Fear River, public drinking water systems, private wells, ambient air, groundwater, and local food sources. Nearly 300,000 residents of Cape Fear communities have been exposed for more than 40 years to PFAS-contaminated drinking water, and several PFAS have been found in their blood. However, there are no health effects data on the great majority of the 54 PFAS, and available studies on the remainder are inadequate.
In a June 16, 2021 letter to Administrator Regan, Representatives Richard Hudson (NC- 8), Deborah Ross (NC-2), David Price (NC-04), Kathy Manning (NC-06), G. K. Butterfield (NC-01), Alma Adams (NC-12), and Madison Cawthorn (NC-11) wrote: “We believe that Cape Fear River communities and North Carolinians must be informed of the health consequences of long-term PFAS exposure and that Chemours has a responsibility under TSCA to fund the research necessary to address their concerns. As members of Congress, the health, welfare, and safety of our constituents are a shared priority. We urge you to exercise your authority under TSCA to hold Chemours accountable and order the testing necessary to understand the human health effects of PFAS contamination on the people in the Cape Fear River area.”
Dana Sargent of Cape Fear River Watch said: “We have been frustrated and frankly confused about the delays, but are encouraged by the Agency’s commitment to respond to this petition and hope Administrator Regan and Biden’s EPA see the value in granting it – in support of their national PFAS strategy – and putting the burden of this work where it belongs – on the multi-billion-dollar polluting industry, and not taxpayers.”
“For decades, our communities have suffered silently from PFAS contaminated water. All the while, polluting corporations have continued to profit from our pain. Our dedicated team of community groups, legal counsel, and scientists have provided EPA with the tools to clearly and swiftly act to save our people. It’s straightforward: approve our petition, clean up our communities and make the polluter pay,” said La’Meshia Whittington, NC Black Alliance.
“I have friends and neighbors dying, going into medical debt, suffering re-occurring cancers and other health problems,” said Emily Donovan of Clean Cape Fear. “It’s well within the EPA’s power under TSCA to order these tests and require the responsible party to pay for them. We urge EPA to make the right decision and issue testing orders to Chemours.”
“EPA’s commitment to decide the petition within 90 days is an important first step but now it needs to make Chemours foot the bill for research that will enable Cape Fear residents to understand the impact of PFAS pollution is having on their health,” said Connor Kippe of Toxic Free NC.
“The PFAS industry is playing a toxic shell game,” said Michael Green, CEO of CEH. “They use a chemical until it’s proven harmful to our health and our environment, and then they switch to a very similar chemical that is less well-studied. We are encouraged that EPA may be finally willing to force Chemours to take responsibility for the human health consequences of years of putting unstudied PFAS into the Cape Fear watershed. The financial interests of industry should no longer trump protection of front-line communities.”
Center for Environmental Health (CEH) is a 25-year-old organization leading the nationwide effort to protect people from toxic chemicals.