Chemours re-importing GenX waste from the Netherlands


Too hazardous for Europe, just fine for North Carolina:

Chemours has “historically recycled” GenX waste at its Fayetteville Works plant that originated from the company’s facility in Dordrecht, Netherlands, a spokeswoman confirmed Friday. The purpose of exporting the material “is to reduce that quantity that is emitted or becomes waste,” Chemours spokeswoman Lisa Randall said.

“The re-importation of material from Dordrecht for responsible recycle is not something new,” Randall said, and has been occurring for about five years with EPA approval.

That five year timeline becomes much more significant when you look at the history of the DuPont/Chemours operation in Dordrecht. In 2012 Dutch regulators cracked down on the company for decades of mishandling C8 (precursor to GenX), including the mass dumping of the chemical compound in area landfills:

Some 800 families living in Merwedepolder, Dordrecht are living atop an old landfill where DuPont dumped their waste, possibly including toxic C8 from its Teflon factory, AD reports.

The municipality of Dordrecht is launching a large study this week to find out whether the toxic substance in present in the neighborhood's soil and groundwater. Three other old Dordrecht landfills will also be tested. This study forms part of a national investigation into perfluorinated compounds in Dutch groundwater.

The nationwide investigation will be performed by researchers from Witteveen+Bos, TTE Consultancy and Arcadis. The Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment and national health institute RIVM are also participating. Dordrecht was chosen as the starting point due to the turmoil surrounding the DuPont plant and toxic C8, according to the newspaper.

"We know that industrial waste was dumped in the Dordrecht landfills, but we do not know where DuPont's C8 is and how much there is. We don't know exactly what's going on", Jonne Bochove said to AD on behalf of the municipality. "Nothing was recorded in those years and supervision was also less. We're talking about the 60's to 80's."

We've seen this exact same thing here in the U.S., in or near chemical facilities all over the country. They bury 55 gallon drums of this crap, and 10-15 years later those drums start leaking due to rust or failed rubber seals, and then a few years after that, people start getting sick. It not only gets into your drinking water, it can taint any food grown in the affected area as well:

Planting a vegetable or fruit garden in the immediate vicinity of Chemcours factory in Dordrecht is not safe, scientists said to the Volkskrant. According to them, the amounts of GenX on plant leaves are so high in the area, that eating fruit and vegetables grown there can be dangerous to your health.

GenX is a toxic substance. Last week researchers from the Vrije Universiteit reported that there is GenX in drinking water around Zuid-Holland, but that the concentrations aren't high enough to be dangerous.

Last year national health service RIVM wrote a report saying that the Chemcours factory, previously DuPont, poisoned local residents with PFOA for years. According to the RIVM, the residents in the Merwedepolder neighborhood, which is next to the chemical factory, for decades lived with an increased risk of severe liver problems due to emissions released during the making of Teflon.

A toxicologist from Utrecht University told the Volkskrant that people living around the factory should definitely not eat vegetables and fruit grown in their garden, as there is a good chance they are contaminated with harmful substances. He thinks the government needs to investigate the extent of the danger to the environment.

When I first heard (read) of this, I was more than a little disgusted with the Netherlands. Sometimes European countries can be somewhat disingenuous with their vaunted sustainability, passing laws that protect their own citizens while exporting the things they don't want. It's gotta go somewhere. But it appears they have had more than their fair share of suffering from DuPont and other bad actors, and several toxic legacies to deal with.

Back to what we're having to deal with. From the OP (hat-tip once again to Lisa Sorg):

Although Chemours has been re-importing the waste since at least 2014, state environmental officials didn’t learn of the practice until long afterward. This knowledge was accidental: While DEQ inspectors were onsite conducting a plant visit, a Chemours employee mentioned it. Those inspectors then informed their superiors at the agency.

A letter dated Jan. 18, 2018, from DEQ Interim Director of the Division of Water Resources Linda Culpepper to Chemours says that the agency had also learned from the EPA’s Region 4 office, which covers several southeastern states, that “wastewater generated from at least one facility in the Netherlands” is being sent to Fayetteville.

In that letter, Culpepper asked Chemours ten questions about how the re-imported wastewater was being generated. It’s unclear if Chemours answered the questions, but DEQ asked EPA about the issue again 11 months later on Dec. 13, 2018.

I sure hope the folks at DEQ learned a lesson from that. Government agencies have a tendency to try to "handle" situations like this on the down-low, without making any public notifications. It's not so much trying to provide cover for polluting industries as it is a naive belief that their authority is going to be respected. But these companies don't respect anything but their profit margins and stock prices. Had this issue been brought to light a year ago when DEQ stumbled across it, splashed across the pages of newspapers, they would have gotten their answers with the quickness. Because Chemours is afraid of that public exposure a lot more than a stern letter, or even a fine. Make a note.