EPA Inspector General to probe agency’s handling of Chemours’ request to produce GenX

By: - September 24, 2019 11:30 am

The EPA Inspector General is launching an investigation into how the agency evaluated Chemours’ 2009 request to produce GenX, including the company’s information on how it would discharge and dispose of the toxic compound.

According to a notice filed yesterday, the Inspector General is focused on determining “what actions the EPA took to verify compliance” with a consent order “to prevent release of the chemical GenX into the Cape Fear River Basin.”

Under the Toxic Releases Substance Act (TSCA), companies that intend to manufacture or import certain new chemical substances must file a pre-manufacture notice with the EPA. These substances include polymers, such as GenX.

A pre-manufacture notice must be submitted within at least 90 days before production of the chemical begins. Companies must provide detailed information about the chemical, its manufacturing process, the amount to be produced, its intended use, environmental releases, disposal practices, human exposures and available test data on toxicity to human health and the environment.

The EPA’s risk assessors are supposed to consider this information during the new chemicals review process, and to ensure they don’t present an unreasonable risk to health or the environment.

In 2008, DuPont – now Chemours – filed pre-manufacture notices under TSCA for GenX. The following year, the EPA and DuPont signed a consent order for the substances, according to the agency website. That order required health and environmental testing in animals, including that for reproductive effects and cancer, as well as possible harm to fish and birds.

It also included analysis of controlled worker exposures, proposed environmental releases, and the amount of impurities that could be present in the final product.

DuPont/Chemours conducted the required testing and provided it to the EPA. That data is now under review. The Inspector General did not provide a timeline for the investigation.

PFAS health study launches in seven states

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has awarded $7 million in grants to study the relationship between PFAS-contaminated drinking water and health. Each award is worth $1 million.

The awardees include six universities, two state departments of health and two nonprofits:

Clean Cape Fear, a citizens’ group based in Wilmington, criticized the state and universities for not applying for one of the grants. “Residents in the Wilmington and Fayetteville areas will not be able to participate in one of the six national locations receiving these federal grants because no state agency, university, or research facility submitted an application on behalf of our communities,” said Emily Donovan, a co-founder of Clean Cape Fear.

“A quarter of a million residents downstream of DuPont/Chemours exposed us to dangerous levels of toxic PFAS for decades and our data will not be added to this nationwide study. It’s heartbreaking. Our participation in this study would have added valuable information to the nation’s understanding of human PFAS exposure.”

Donovan said DHHS should have overseen a statewide group, including public health officials and research institutions and nonprofits to submit multiple applications for this grant. Other states, like Massachusetts, did so.”

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Human Services said “since this was a research study, DHHS encouraged its academic partners to apply.” DHHS is not a research organization, but does collect and publish public health data.

Jeffrey Warren, research director for the NC Policy Collaboratory, which has deployed dozens of academic researchers to study perfluorinated compounds, was on a CDC review team to evaluate some of the grant proposals. He said the states that received funding had long histories with PFAS contamination – longer than North Carolina’s – and also had collected extensive amounts of data. All of the grants he reviewed, Warren said, involved academic teams.

The CDC’s 55-page call for applications was clear in that the agency would require applicants to have access to large amounts of data.

Because the state has less data, Warren said, “I’m not sure North Carolina would have qualified.”

“The criticism is unfounded,” he said, adding that the university researchers in North Carolina have applied for grants totaling in the tens of millions of dollars to study the compounds.

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Lisa Sorg
Lisa Sorg

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