The North Carolina House Environment Committee voted in support of House Bill 864 (PFAS Pollution and Polluter Liability), which would mandate PFAS (Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) manufacturers to cover cleanup costs for public water systems across the state. 

Rep. Ted Davis, R-New Hanover, said during the meeting that local ratepayers should not be paying for the cleanup.  

“This legislation is about protecting us to have clean drinking water, and also to protect the ratepayers for the utilities not to have to foot the bill for the humongous expense to buy all this equipment to make the water be able to be safe to drink,’ he said. 

In Representative Davis’s district, the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) has invested over $40 million in a granular activated carbon filtration system to remove PFAS from the water supply. The construction costs were covered by ratepayers in New Hanover County, and the filters have an annual operating cost of $5 million. 

“The name of the bill really ought to be: ‘The ratepayers don’t have to pay what the polluters caused,’” Davis remarked, “That’s what it’s all about and that’s why I’m going to continue to fight for it.” 

Chemours, the chemical company responsible for dumping toxins in the Cape Fear River for decades, told the Carolina Journal they are disappointed to see this legislation move forward. 

“Chemours is disappointed in the North Carolina House Environmental Committee’s decision to advance House Bill 864 – which appears to be directed at one company and proposes administrative processes for which legal and judicial authority already exists – despite multiple concerns voiced by Chemours, the American Chemistry Council, the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce, and the North Carolina Manufacturers Alliance.” 

Representative Davis disagrees that this bill targets one specific company, he said, “This bill is targeted at anyone in this state that makes this stuff from scratch. Chemours happens to do that, but I will say they knew very well what they were doing and they didn’t do any of this remediation efforts until they got caught in 2017.” 

Chemours addressed their remediation efforts in their statement.

“To date, we’ve invested more than $400 million at Fayetteville Works to remediate historical emissions and install state-of-the-art technology and systems to limit future emissions,” reads the statement. “This includes the installation of a mile-long underground barrier wall and treatment system, a first-of-its-kind thermal oxidizer, and additional systems to intercept, collect and treat legacy groundwater and surface water discharges from the site. We know of no other company that has done as much to create a responsible manufacturing environment as Chemours has.” 

The Cape Fear Business Alliance, a non-partisan representative of small businesses around southeastern North Carolina, says the legislation is good for business.  

“We thank Reps. Davis and ller for their willingness to hold big corporations accountable that knowingly pollute our water,” said Jonathan Bridges, CFBA executive director. “The Chamber has wrongly called this Bill anti-business. HB 864 protects businesses, their customers, and employees from contaminated water and ensures that the cost burden rests with big polluters like Chemours, not local businesses.” 

The North Carolina Chamber of Commerce has not yet responded to the Carolina Journal’s request for comment. 

The bill must pass through additional committees and get approval from the House and Senate before being sent to the governor’s desk to become law.