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Lawsuit Against EPA on PFAS Testing Petition Moves Forward in North Carolina Federal Court

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Lawsuit Against EPA on PFAS Testing Petition Moves Forward in North Carolina Federal Court

On the 5-year anniversary of the public learning about drinking water contamination, groups press ahead with suit calling on EPA to order Chemours to fund vital health studies

WILMINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA – Today six North Carolina community and environmental justice groups announced that their lawsuit against the EPA is moving forward in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina and will be heard by Chief Judge Richard E. II, who sits in Wilmington. The groups noted that June 15, 2022 marks 5 years from when Chemours disclosed in a closed door meeting that, for nearly 40 years, its Fayetteville Works Site had been releasing large amounts of GenX and other PFAS into the Cape Fear  River, the drinking water source for nearly 500,000 residents of Eastern North Carolina.

The suit was filed after EPA denied a petition by six groups in the fall of 2021 to require Chemours to fund critical health studies on 54 PFAS chemicals that are putting North Carolina residents at risk. The six groups who filed the petition and are now suing EPA are: Center for Environmental Health, Cape Fear River Watch, Clean Cape Fear, Democracy Green, the NC Black Alliance, and Toxic Free NC.

“A North Carolina venue will make it easier for residents to follow the progress of this important case and support our litigation team,” said Bob Sussman, petitioners’ counsel. “We believe our suit is on solid ground and there is a strong basis for the Court to order the EPA to require Chemours to fund the studies that are vital to protecting the health of North Carolina communities who have been harmed by PFAS pollution,” Sussman emphasized.

Through a 2016 amendment to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the EPA has enhanced authority to order chemical manufactures to fund testing of their chemicals, including the authority to order epidemiological studies and testing on mixtures.

“Although EPA denied the petition on the basis of its National PFAS Testing Strategy, it fails to focus on the chemicals to which North Carolinians are exposed, which is why the Agency should grant this petition and require the testing sought by the communities,” said Dr. Linda S. Birnbaum, Scientist Emeritus and Former Director, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program.

“It is unfortunate that we have been forced to sue the EPA when our petition tasked them with nothing but a request that they protect human health and the environment against corporate polluters–in other words we tasked them to simply uphold the mission and sole purpose of their agency,” said Dana Sargent of Cape Fear River Watch.

“500,000 residents in southeastern North Carolina are chronically drinking levels of GenX, PFOA and PFOS in our tap water exceeding EPA’s Lifetime Health Advisory Limits. Some of us were born drinking this water. We raised our children on this water,” said Emily Donovan, Co-Founder, Clean Cape Fear. “Chemours is not offering to give municipal ratepayers water delivery services or water vouchers. We are forced to pay for water we don’t feel safe drinking and self-fund efforts to remove PFAS from the tap water in our homes and public schools. We are fighting for our health and our communities’ right to clean water.”

“The ‘Forever Chemical’ PFAS will forever impact our communities and facilitate health disparities for decades,” said Sanja Whittington of Democracy Green. “The CDC has found PFAS in the blood of 97% of Americans. Corporate accountability is a must to provide for testing of those impacted and remediation of harm caused by this invasive toxic element that irresponsible corporations have carelessly unleashed on the unsuspecting citizens of North Carolina.”

“Black and Brown communities are already suffering from the crushing burden of cumulative impact in their respective communities, in addition to having to bear the impact of ingesting these forever chemicals,” said Jovita Lee, Program Director for the North Carolina Black Alliance. “It is imperative that we demand adequate protections for our communities in order to ensure that the same regions aren’t continuously exposed to hazards that surpass state and federal safety levels.”

“EPA must force Chemours to take responsibility for the human health consequences of years of putting unstudied PFAS into the Cape Fear watershed,” Michael Green, CEO of CEH. “The financial interests of industry should no longer trump protection of front-line communities.”

The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) is a 25 year old organization leading the nationwide effort to protect people from toxic chemicals.