The Pulse

Chemours forced to remove tons of debris from unlined landfill

By: - June 9, 2020 11:30 am
One of several semis and dump trucks that hauled debris from Chemours to an unlined landfill last week (Photo: Mike Watters)

Chemours has transported tons of soil and woody debris potentially contaminated with toxic PFAS, including GenX, to an unlined landfill in Fayetteville, according to state investigation prompted by citizen reports.

Now the NC Department of Environmental Quality has required Chemours to retrieve all of that material from Hunt’s Landfill, a Land Clearing and Inert Debris site, and has prohibited it from taking any debris there.

“Additional soil will also be removed from the area in the landfill where the soil and root material had been deposited,” said DEQ spokeswoman Laura Leonard. Chemours intends to take the material to the Robeson County Municipal Solid Waste landfill, which is a lined landfill with environmental monitoring, Leonard said, and DEQ has approved that plan.

DEQ did not cite the company, but Leonard said the agency “is reviewing all information it has obtained to determine whether additional follow-up action is needed.”

Mike Watters of Stop GenX in Our Water learned of the dumping last week, but by accident. “I just happened to be driving over to Huske Dam to look at how high Cape Fear was when I discovered the trucks were coming from that site,” Watters told Policy Watch.

Watters said over the next three hours he observed 22 dump trucks transporting debris from the area near Old Outfall 002 on the Chemours property to the landfill. Stop GenX subsequently alerted DEQ and Policy Watch to the dumping.

After Watters reported the incidents, the NC Department of Transportation and the Lock and Dam master closed the a state-owned access road leading to the plant. According to DEQ emails obtained by Policy Watch, the closure was “based on concerns with several drivers entering the construction area and Chemours property.” Orange barrel barricades remain up with a 12-foot spacing, allowing drivers to pass through to the Lock and Dam area and the other parts of the road as needed.

It is unclear how many tons or cubic feet of waste Chemours took to Hunt’s Landfill. Jeremy Hunt said Chemours removed all of the material last week. Reached at home, he didn’t know how many tons the company dumped. Officials at the Robeson County Landfill could not be reached today; the phone line was repeatedly busy and no one answered an email seeking additional information.

Chemours spokeswoman Lisa Randolph said the company felled trees on the property earlier this year to build a water filtration plant that is required as part of a Consent Order with the state and Cape Fear River Watch. Chemours recently cleared the land of leftover limbs and roots and took them to Hunt’s landfill.

Until 2012, Old Outfall 002 discharged process wastewater containing high levels of PFAS, including GenX, from the DuPont (now Chemours) plant into the Cape Fear River. Studies conducted at the site indicate that groundwater is contaminated with several types of PFAS constituents. Since plants can absorb PFAS through their root systems, and the soil near the old outfall was contaminated, it’s likely that the tree debris would contain the compounds as well.

One of 22 dump trucks or semis that hauled potentially contaminated soil and trees from Chemours to an unlined landfill. (Photo: Mike Watters)

Even though Chemours no longer uses the old outfall, it is building a water filtration facility to capture runoff that could flow through the contaminated area and into the river. The facility is expected to begin operating by Sept. 30.

Land Clearing and Inert Debris landfills, also known as LCIDs, are used to dump yard waste, untreated wood, bushes and trees. Because they aren’t required to be lined, there are restrictions on the type of waste they can accept. For example, LCIDs are prohibited from taking painted lumber, painted brick and block, municipal waste and construction waste because of potential contamination.

According to state inspection records, on Jan. 9 DEQ cited Hunt’s for accepting treated wood, painted block and some plastic. “Better screening of the incoming waste loads needs to occur to ensure all waste accepted meets rule requirements LCID’s before accepting,” the inspection reads.

Similarly, Construction and Demolition landfills, or C&Ds, aren’t lined. Policy Watch reported in April that a study conducted by former EPA scientist Johnsie Lang found high levels of PFAS seeping from those landfills and into the groundwater — presumably from household carpet or even remnants of firefighting foam. C&Ds in North Carolina are required to conduct groundwater monitoring and sampling for a variety of contaminants. PFAS are not among them.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Lisa Sorg
Lisa Sorg

Assistant Editor and Environmental Reporter Lisa Sorg helps manage newsroom operations while covering the environment, climate change, agriculture and energy.