Almost 17 years ago, the North Carolina DEQ (formerly DENR or DEHNR) Division of Air Quality was notified of DuPont Fayetteville Works' significant emissions of HFPO (hexafluoropropylene oxide) and HFP (hexafluoropropylene) to the air, along with a list of chemicals associated with the VOC (volatile organic compound) emissions from their large Fluorochemicals Plant adjacent to the Cape Fear River. During that same time period, DuPont notified the agency's Division of Water Quality that it was considering efforts to identify and quantify the numerous fluorocarbon chemicals associated with the wastewater from their Fluorochemicals Plant. Dupont reported PFOA groundwater contamination to the DEQ Division of Waste Management in 2003. One year later in 2004, DEQ Air Quality became aware of DuPont Fayetteville Works' untreated wastewater (via the scrubbers) with PFAS and GenX chemicals (acid fluorides, PFAAs, fluorocarbons) which could not be broken down by microorganisms and remained unchanged as they were discharged into the Cape Fear River, a source of drinking water for downstream communities. Surprisingly, DuPont Fayetteville Works did not have an advanced wastewater treatment system. The evidence shows that the North Carolina environmental agency's cover-up was in full force in 2005.
DuPont Fayetteville Works' 2005 annual report for the previous year (2004) specified repeatedly that chemicals in the "acid fluoride family," (PFAA, PFOA, GenX and PFAS chemicals) were being discharged to water (via the scrubbers) from its Fluorochemicals Plant located along the Cape Fear River. The 2005 report, with DuPont's 2004 data, was submitted to North Carolina environmental agency officials in 2005.
Why did the NC DEQ (DENR) management team engage in the DuPont Fayetteville "communication lockdown" in 2005? Why was there so much internal secrecy and restrictions on communicating basic information about Dupont Fayetteville Works within the agency?
Why did the most important information included in the 2004 DuPont inspection report (untreated PFAS chemicals discharged into the Cape Fear River) disappear from the DuPont inspection report in 2005, written one week after the DuPont and DEQ meeting on September 23, 2005? Why was this essential information concealed?
In 2005, who in state government, in coordination with the U.S. EPA, was looking at the big picture of DuPont's chemical pollutants in air, water, land, and waste, with a close eye on the well-publicized developments at a similar DuPont facility in West Virginia?
2012: DEQ released the false and misleading 2012 Memo and Report which tried to make the unbelievable argument that PFAA pollutants (PFAS, PFOA, GenX, fluorocarbons, acid fluorides, etc.) are released to the environment in other states, but not in North Carolina. This makes no sense at all, but may have completely misled the Science Advisory Board, the media, and the public. The notion that fluorochemicals or fluorocarbons are used and manufactured at the DuPont Fayetteville Works site in North Carolina, but not released as pollutants into the air and water, would have been considered both false and preposterous way back in 2005, and earlier. This is astonishing and misleading to such a degree that one could be forgiven for thinking it was written by a DuPont corporate public relations person located in Delaware.
Did any DEQ employees speak up after seeing the false and misleading information in the 2012 Memo and Report. If so, what happened to those employees? Why did North Carolina's environmental agency conceal the information that its Fayetteville office had regarding DuPont's large Fluorochemicals Plant and its air emissions, scrubber wastewater, and PFAS chemicals in wastewater discharges (via the scrubbers), gleaned from the company's annual reports, the annual inspections, and the numerous written communications and meetings between DuPont and DEQ Air Quality?
In 2012, who in the DEQ management team was looking at the big picture of DuPont's chemical pollutants in air, water, land, and waste?
2017 - 2018: The evidence shows that NC DEQ completely misled the Science Advisory Board about the DEQ's long history of communications with DuPont (Chemours) Fayetteville Works and the agency's knowledge of PFAS chemical emissions to both air and water (via the scrubbers) from the company's large Fluorochemicals Plant. At a meeting on December 4, 2017, the Board heard presentations prepared by DEQ Air, DEQ Water, and DEQ Waste. Surprisingly, the DEQ Air presentation concealed nearly all of the agency's historical information showing the DEQ was fully aware for more than a decade that DuPont's Fluorochemicals Plant was discharging significant amounts of acid fluoride chemicals (PFAA, GenX and PFAS chemicals) into the air and water (via the scrubbers). It should be noted that much of the concealed information is contained in DEQ Air Quality's own IBEAM database. The meetings of the Science Advisory Board provided an opportunity for the North Carolina DEQ to "come clean" with the public and work collaboratively with academic experts to identify DEQ Lessons Learned and needed agency changes. Instead, the evidence shows that the agency concealed essential information from the Science Advisory Board and the public, thereby protecting the institution and maintaining the DEQ status quo.
Instead of investigating what went wrong at the agency, the NC DEQ choose to take the easy path of pointing the blaming finger at other entities, such as the General Assembly, the agency funding levels, the previous administrations, the U.S. Congress, the "emerging contaminants," and the "regulatory framework."
A special thank you to the helpful experts in the academic community, the many supportive people living in impacted communities, and the handful of courageous NC DEQ staff people who have helped us research and uncover the details of North Carolina DEQ's 15-year concealment and cover-up in the Wilmington to Fayetteville Drinking Water Crisis.