After months of delays, a barrier wall at the Chemours Fayetteville Works Site in Bladen County is complete, according to The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ). In a statement, the agency said, “As of June 11, DEQ has been notified that the barrier wall is complete. The extraction wells and treatment system are operational.”

In 2017, residents of southeast North Carolina became aware of an unregulated chemical compound called “GenX.” GenX is a per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance commonly known as PFAS. The presence of GenX and other PFAS compounds in the Cape Fear River raised concerns about potential health risks. Studies have linked certain PFAS chemicals to adverse health effects.

The Wilmington Star News ran a special report with the headline “Toxin taints CFPUA drinking water.” Chemours, a chemical manufacturing company, was reportedly dumping chemical compounds into the Cape Fear River for four decades. This caused a massive amount of water pollution for communities and public utilities like Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) that were downstream from the Fayetteville Works Site. 

Star News Cover from June 8th, 2017

In March, EPA Administrator Michael Regan, who was the head of the DEQ in 2017, announced the first of it’s kind National Primary Drinking Water Regulation. The regulation applies to six PFAS, including GenX.

Consent Order between Chemours and NCDEQ was approved in early 2019, which required the chemical manufacturer to enhance its wastewater treatment systems to reduce the discharge of GenX and other PFAS into the river. 

In response to the order, Chemours formulated a strategy to construct an underground barrier wall along the Cape Fear River. This wall, stretching for approximately one mile, would have varying depths, reaching up to 80 feet in certain locations. Its purpose would be to contain and capture groundwater. The groundwater would be captured by wells at the base of the wall, sent to a water treatment facility, and the PFAS removed before being discharged. 

NCDEQ initially established a deadline of March 15th for the completion and operation of a wall and treatment system aimed at reducing PFAS emissions by 99.9%. However, after an unsuccessful appeal by Chemours, NCDEQ granted them an extension. The new deadline for the completion of the wall and system was set for May 31st. However, it was not until June 11th that NCDEQ received notification that the wall and treatment system were finally operational. According to Sharon Martin, Deputy Secretary for Public Affairs, DEQ is reviewing the next steps after the deadline date was missed. 

In a statement to Carolina Journal, Chemours noted that the system is online and functioning at levels required by the Consent Order. “At present, the system is actively extracting and treating groundwater as well as capturing seep water and stormwater.” it continued, “Based on initial monitoring data, the treatment system is operating well and meeting current and future discharge limits.”