Press Releases

Petition: EPA Must Hold Chemours Accountable for PFAS “Forever Chemical” Contamination in Cape Fear


October 14, 2020

Andrea Braswell, PMP,
Aimee Dewing,

Advocates Petition U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to Require Chemours to Fund Studies on the Health and Environmental Effects of Toxic PFAS “Forever Chemicals” Contaminating Cape Fear Communities 

Frontline Groups Demand Testing by Chemours to Assess Risks Posed by PFAS Pollution

FAYETTEVILLE, NC—Today, six public health and environmental justice organizations— Center for Environmental Health, Cape Fear River Watch, Clean Cape Fear, NC Black Alliance, Democracy Green and Toxic Free NC— submitted a petition to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) demanding that it take long overdue action to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) pollution in Cape Fear communities. The petition asks EPA to require The Chemours Company to fund comprehensive health and environmental effects testing on 54 PFAS manufactured at its production facility in Fayetteville. 

These 54 chemicals have been found in human blood, drinking water, groundwater, soil, air, and locally produced food adjacent to and downstream of the plant as a result of emissions and discharges spanning decades. There is little or no data on their risks to exposed residents because Chemours has conducted minimal testing.

EPA has broad authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to order manufacturers like Chemours to determine the safety of their products and processes. However, the agency has failed to use this testing authority for PFAS and other chemicals since Congress strengthened TSCA in 2016. It is time for EPA to fulfill its responsibility under the law by ordering Chemours to step up and devote its resources to understanding how its chemicals have affected exposed people and the environment.   

PFAS “forever chemicals” are a large group of nearly 5,000 synthetic chemicals that make products water and grease-resistant. They are ubiquitous, found in non-stick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain-resistant carpets, lubricants, firefighting foams, paints, cosmetics, paper plates, and fast food packaging. They are readily transported around the globe and build up in people and wildlife. These chemicals take thousands of years to break down in the environment and can remain in our bodies for decades.  Certain PFAS are pervasive in the blood of the US population. Exposure to “forever chemicals” can cause cancer, thyroid disease, birth defects, hormone disruption, decreased fertility, immune system suppression, and other serious health effects. However, test data for most PFAS are not available.   

The petition builds on existing scientific understanding of the properties of PFAS as a class by proposing that the 54 PFAS be tested for the adverse health and environmental effects that have been linked to well-studied class members, such as PFOA and PFOS. The proposed testing includes studies in laboratory animals as well as research into the relationship between health outcomes and PFAS exposure among people in Cape Fear communities. Studies to determine effects on fish and how the PFAS behave in the environment would also be conducted.  

Under TSCA, EPA has 90 days to respond to the petition. If the petition is denied, the law gives North Carolina communities the right to take EPA to court. 

Chemours’ Fayetteville chemical manufacturing facility, located on the Cape Fear River upstream of Wilmington, North Carolina, has long been a major producer and user of PFAS under the ownership of E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Company, Inc. (DuPont). In 2015, Dupont created spinoff company Chemours after facing millions of dollars in civil suits and increased media attention for its production and use of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical known to cause cancer and other health effects that was responsible for widespread contamination of drinking water near the company’s Parkersburg, West Virginia facility. Chemours stopped producing PFOA at the Fayetteville facility because of these issues but the replacement chemicals (called GenX) have been found, along with many other PFAS, in drinking water sources serving over a quarter of a million people in North Carolina. 

Review a full copy of the petition.

Read our FAQs.

Quote Sheet

“CEH believes that chemical manufacturers should be required to test their products for safety, make that data public, and choose safer alternatives. For many years, Chemours was allowed to release PFAS chemicals into the air and water from its Fayetteville facility, without being required to test for safety. As a result, people who live adjacent to and downstream from the plant have been exposed to a mixture of these toxic PFAS chemicals. The community has the right to know what adverse effects these chemicals may be having on their families’ health. This petition will hold Chemours accountable for the risks it took with human health and the environment.” – Michael Green, Chief Executive Officer, Center for Environmental Health 

“We should have had test data on these 54 PFAS before they could be used – now they are in our environment and in us and we do not know if they are safe.” –Linda S. Birnbaum, Ph.D., D.A.B.T., A.T.S.,Scientist Emeritus and Former Director,  National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program, Scholar in Residence, Duke University

It is difficult to fathom how DuPont/Chemoursa company of chemistsmade the decision to discharge so many PFAS chemicals into a river that provides drinking water for 300,000 people despite their obvious similarity to the well-known toxic chemical PFOA. The fact that they did this for decades shows that our system of regulating chemicals is broken and raises important questions about corporate responsibility. Ruthann Rudel, Director of Research, Silent Spring Institute

“As a toxicologist who tries to understand how PFAS exposure affects the immune system, it’s surprising to me that more data aren’t available on their health effects. PFAS have been produced and used for decades but the data we have are limited to just a handful of the thousands of PFAS that we know are in the environment, in drinking water, and in our bodies. PFAS don’t break down, they move from place to place, they accumulate in living organisms, and the ones we’ve studied show adverse health effects. Additional testing is essential to understand if the health of people who have been exposed to PFAS emitted by the Chemours facility is being affected. – Jamie DeWitt, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Pharmacology & Toxicology, Eastern Carolina University 

“For decades, DuPont/Chemours used our drinking water supply as a sewer system for their chemical waste. We drank this water daily, gave it to our children, cooked and bathed with it. We’ve been overexposed to these toxic ‘forever’ chemicals. It’s time the EPA use its full authority and give us the answers we deserve so medical practitioners can better monitor our health.” – Emily Donovan, co-founder of Clean Cape Fear

“Cape Fear River Watch firmly believes our state and federal regulatory bodies have all the data and authority they need to regulate the manufacture and release of PFAS, now. But, we also know that families suffering with illnesses, as well as our health care industry, and the population as a whole, need to know the health outcomes caused by decades of exposure to these toxins by industries across the globe. Chemical giants continue to reap financial benefits of their reckless behavior at the expense of human health and the environment. This petition holds at least one polluter responsible for paying to figure out just what damage they have done to the health of those in their community in North Carolina.” – Dana Sargent, Executive Director, Cape Fear River Watch

“North Carolinians deserve clean air, water, and food. We call on EPA to do its job and take long overdue action in holding the Dupont/Chemours Company accountable for polluting our state and prioritizing profit above the health of our communities.” – Alexis Luckey, Executive Director, Toxic Free North Carolina.

“All people have the right to clean air, clean water, pollution-free, and thriving vibrant communities. At NC Black Alliance, we are standing as plaintiffs in this case because we know the grave impact it has held on communities-of-color. This is apparent when we see that 56% of residents living within a 2-mile radius of toxic waste facilities are people-of-color. The cumulative impact and dangers of PFAS on low-wealth communities and communities-of-color are immeasurable. These same neighborhoods that face major hurricanes and other storm systems, are the same neighborhoods facing the direct impact of health disparities exacerbated by PFAS, not to mention, this pandemic.” – La’Meshia Whittington, Campaigns Director, NC Black Alliance. 

“The poisoning of low-wealth communities and communities-of-color by corporation negligence isn’t anything new. What also isn’t new, is the lack of accountability and standards by which these corporations are held by our government. This has to end, which is why we are joining forces, as plaintiffs, to wage war against PFAS and the corporation responsible. It is a must, for the survival of our communities, our children, and for the protection of our lands.” – Sanja Whittington, Executive Director, Democracy Green

“It’s time for EPA to use the tools Congress provided in TSCA and place the responsibility on  industry to support the testing necessary to inform the public of the risks of their products and operations. This is vitally important for PFAS as a class of chemicals raising unique concerns to which North Carolina residents have been exposed without knowing the impacts on their health.” – Robert M. Sussman, former EPA Deputy Administrator and Senior Policy Counsel under Presidents Clinton and Obama  

“My constituents have a right to know. After 40 years of exposure to toxic PFAS chemicals, what harmful impacts have they had on their health and our environment? Mounting scientific and laboratory evidence clearly sees a connection. The National EPA has the authority, under the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA), to require manufacturers of these unregulated chemicals to thoroughly test them before discharging them into our public waters and atmosphere. If the EPA will not act, then the State of North Carolina will. Those responsible will be held accountable. Clean drinking water and our public’s health must come first!” – North Carolina State Senator Harper Peterson