November 26, 2018

Area leaders and lawyers representing a potential class-action lawsuit against The Chemours Co., recently reacted to the proposed consent order issued last week requiring the company to pay the largest fine ever levied by North Carolina environmental regulators.

The agreement is a step in the right direction for addressing concerns that have been raised by Chemours' release of GenX compounds into the Cape Fear River, Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo and New Hanover County Commissioner Rob Zapple said Monday when asked about the news from last week. 

Late last Wednesday, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) issued a news release that stated the Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of Cape Fear River Watch and NCDEQ, signed a proposed consent order with Chemours that requires the company to fix pollution in the Cape Fear River caused from per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances.

The order laid out several potential requirements for the company, including short- and long-term cleanup efforts, a 92 percent reduction of GenX emissions by the end of the year, funding of health studies for the PFAS and payment of a civil penalty of $12 million to the state, as well as $1 million for investigative costs. 

A proposed class-action lawsuit, however, is still pending in federal court. One of the lead attorneys for the class action case, which has several named defendants including a Wilmington resident, issued a statement Monday regarding the order.

While the proposed agreement is a "good step forward" in addressing contamination issues in the state, there is still a large population of North Carolina residents who are not touched by the move last week, Ted Leopold, partner at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll and co-lead counsel in the federal class-action case, said Monday.

“The settlement that The Chemours Company reached with the state last week represents a small but encouraging step toward addressing its role in dumping harmful chemicals into the Cape Fear River and releasing them into the air and the harm that conduct has caused North Carolinians,” Leopold said in a news release.

“Because the relief in this tentative agreement is largely limited to just the tiny percentage of well-water properties, it leaves unaddressed the needs of hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians harmed by contaminated public drinking water, and all those harmed by Chemours’ actions, and so we will continue the aggressive pursuit of our class action lawsuit to secure broader relief,” he added.

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