North Carolina Groups Seek Justice In Federal Court After EPA Fails to Hold Chemours Accountable for PFAS Pollution
CONTACT: Emily DiFrisco, (510) 655-3900 x 307 firstname.lastname@example.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Jan. 27, 2022
WILMINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA – Six North Carolina community and environmental justice groups announced today they are reactivating their lawsuit against the EPA for failing to grant their petition seeking to require Chemours to conduct critical health studies on 54 per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that are putting hundreds of thousands of North Carolina residents at risk.
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 original petition, filed October 14, 2020, asked EPA to require that Chemours fund a comprehensive research program addressing the concerns of Cape Fear communities who have been exposed for decades to numerous PFAS in their drinking water, air, food, and soil because of pollution from the Chemours facility in Fayetteville.
The Biden EPA agreed to reconsider the petition after it was denied under President Trump but on December 28, 2021, refused to require nearly all the health studies requested by the communities. Claiming that it was “granting” the petition, EPA only agreed to require limited testing on 7 of the 54 PFAS that it had earlier announced would be conducted under its general PFAS testing strategy. The Agency would not require an epidemiological study of contaminated communities and testing on PFAS mixtures present in drinking water and the blood of residents – the most important studies in understanding how PFAS pollution has affected the health of exposed populations.
Bob Sussman, petitioners’ counsel and former senior EPA official, said that “We are returning to court to exercise our right under TSCA to challenge EPA’s disappointing refusal to hold Chemours accountable for studies that EPA had the clear authority to require. We are confident that the court will direct EPA to assure that Chemours pays for essential testing on chemicals that are in the drinking water and blood of hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians.”
The groups’ suit in the District Court for the Northern District of California was filed on March 3, 2021 and challenged the denial of the petition by the Trump EPA. The suit was put on hold while the Biden EPA reconsidered the denial. To reactivate the suit, the parties have filed a joint motion governing next steps in the case, including filing of an amended Complaint by petitioners to update their claims in light of EPA’s recent actions.
Dana Sargent of Cape Fear River Watch said, “As the director of an environmental nonprofit who believed in and trusted the folks of this EPA to do the right thing, I am furious with EPA’s failure to act; as a poisoned community member who is also grieving the loss of a firefighter brother whose cancer could be explained by this data, I am heartbroken. We are turning to the courts because EPA has failed us. ”
“My friends and neighbors are dying and going into medical debt while battling rare or recurring cancers. We deserve access to every health study our petition requested. I’m baffled that the EPA would rather waste taxpayer dollars in expensive litigation than simply do their job and require Chemours pay for these studies,” said Emily Donovan, Clean Cape Fear.
“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 advocates, legal counsel, and scientists have provided EPA with the tools to clearly and swiftly act to save our communities. If EPA is unwilling to use these tools, we will look to our legal remedies to make sure the agency holds Chemours accountable ” said La’Meshia Whittington, NC Black Alliance.
“North Carolina communities deserve to understand the health impacts of previous decades of exposure to toxic ‘forever chemical’ contamination by Chemours and what that might mean for their future exposure and health. We must take this next step to challenge the falsehood of the EPA granting in name only of our petition,” said Connor Kippe, Toxic Free NC.
“EPA is responsible for protecting our health and the environment,” said Michael Green, CEO of CEH. “Many communities across the U.S. are struggling with PFAS contamination. If EPA had granted this petition, the data EPA could have gained would support their national PFAS strategy and provide answers to communities across the U.S. and the world. It is time for EPA to require the polluter–rather than the public–to pay for the studies needed to protect North Carolina communities.””
Often called “forever chemicals,” PFAS have raised significant concern in the U.S. and globally because of their persistence and potential to bioaccumulate, along with their widespread presence in living organisms, products, and the environment, and demonstrated adverse health effects at low doses. PFAS have been detected pervasively in the blood of workers and the general population, with 99 percent of those sampled showing detectable levels of these compounds.