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How DuPont and Chemours Changed Drinking Water Forever

Goodwin Media Collaborator @ Thursday, October 22, 2020 at 4:28 pm -0400

Analies Dyjak, M.A.  |  Head of Policy

North Carolina has been at the heart of a largely under-reported drinking water crisis. Thousands of North Carolinians have been exposed to unsafe levels of an unregulated contaminant called Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, PFAS, or "forever chemicals." The source of the contamination traces back to a fluoro-chemical operation in Fayetteville - causing widespread contamination in municipal drinking water and in private wells. This article will discuss two companies’ legal tactics to try and avoid liability, and how the victims of this tragedy continue to be left in the dark. 

Polluter v. Polluter 

You may already be familiar with the two companies at the root of this crisis in North Carolina. In short, DuPont had been manufacturing and distributing a category of chemicals called Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances or PFAS, since the 1980's. DuPont created Chemours - a spinoff company in charge of overseeing all fluoro-chemical operations, including the entire category of PFAS chemicals. In doing so, Chemours assumed direct liability for DuPont’s decades of chemical contamination - including all environmental and public health damages. According to the 2019 lawsuit, Chemours claimed that DuPont was not entirely forthcoming about the amount of damages the spinoff company was to incur. Chemours claimed that they were set up by DuPont to be “financially overwhelmed,” and ultimately bankrupt. When Chemours took over DuPont in 2015, they agreed to historical liabilities of no greater than $1.42 billion. Chemours claimed that DuPont wildly underestimated the totality of the liabilities. For example, the cost of one particular class action lawsuit, including 3,500 cancer and bodily harm claims associated with exposure to PFOA, was grossly underestimated. DuPont claimed that settlement would cost no greater than $128 Million, while Chemours ended up owing $671 Million for that case alone. 

Chemours v. DuPont was ultimately dismissed by a Delaware judge in 2019. This was bad news for Chemours, and even worse news for the thousands of individuals impacted by PFAS contamination. Both companies are trying to delay and reorganize, in order to pay the absolute least amount of money to the state of North Carolina as possible. If you want to learn more about other Chemours’ litigation in North Carolina, click here. We also have an article about an unrelated case against DuPont, which you can find here.

North Carolina Attorney General Sues DuPont and Chemours

Soon after Chemours sued DuPont, the state of North Carolina turned around and sued both companies. On October 13, 2020, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, sued DuPont and Chemours for PFAS contamination in the Cape Fear River. The single Chemours plant in Fayetteville has caused widespread PFAS contamination throughout several major North Carolina counties, including New Hanover, Bladen, Pender, and Brunswick. The recent lawsuit is calling for both Chemours and DuPont to pay for all “past and future costs, necessary to investigate, assess, remediate, restore, and remedy” all damages. We'll have updated information on our blog and social media (@hydroviv_h2o) as this story unfolds. 

How Has PFAS Impacted The State of North Carolina?

There's no way to fully estimate how this negligence has impacted North Carolinians. What we do know is that exposure to PFAS chemicals has been associated with a variety of negative health effects, including: an increased risk of cancer, decreased immune function, increased cholesterol, and more. In a study completed just this year, a team of Yale researchers found that exposure to PFAS increases the risk of miscarriage by 80-120%. A PFAS variety that's especially problematic in the Cape Fear River, called GenX, was deemed a "probable carcinogen" by EPA in 2018. Still, none of these contaminants are regulated by EPA or the state of North Carolina, meaning it's not required to be removed by municipal utilities. PFAS have been detected at levels well above public health recommendations in Wilmington, Leland, Winnabow, and other cities that draw water from the Cape Fear River and its tributaries.

What Can I Do?

Media coverage has been propelled by community organizers throughout impacted areas in North Carolina. Organizations like North Carolina Stop GenX in our Water, Cape Fear River Watch, and many other have “blown the whistle” on what’s going on in North Carolina. We recommend following these organizations, as well as our social media channels (@hydroviv_h2o) to stay up to date. It's important to point out that North Carolina is not the only state that has PFAS in its drinking water. Michigan, Minnesota, New York, New Hampshire, and California are just some of the states where PFAS have become a serious threat. The Environmental Working Group created a map which shows areas of the country with detectable levels of PFAS in drinking water. You can check out the map here.

If you are planning on purchasing a water filter, make sure that it’s rated to remove PFAS chemicals. Most pitcher, faucet, and countertop systems are unable to remove PFAS. Check out this PFAS filtration removal study completed by Duke and NC State. 

Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
PFAS Detected in Several Popular Bottled Water Brands 
5 Things You Need To Know About Drinking Water Right Now
How Did Hydroviv Filters Perform in a Duke University Filter Study?

How Did Hydroviv Water Filters Perform in a Duke/NC State PFAS Removal Study?

Water Nerd @ Wednesday, February 26, 2020 at 4:36 pm -0500

Analies Dyjak, M.A.  |  Eric Roy, Ph.D.

Duke University and NC State researchers recently published a study that examined the effectiveness of residential water filters against PFAS. We believe that this study is extremely important because PFAS are toxic and unregulated, which means that individuals shoulder the burden to remove them from drinking water. While we were excited to be part of this study, Hydroviv is NOT endorsed in any way by Duke University, NC State, or any of the researchers, nor did we pay any money to be part of the study.

How Effective Were Hydroviv Water Filters in Removing PFAS?

Five Hydroviv filters were tested as part of this study, four of which use currently-available active media blends. For these core formulations, the researchers tested two Under Sink Filters that connect directly to the faucet and two Refrigerator Line filters that connect to the water line that feeds the refrigerator. In all four cases, any water with PFAS present in the unfiltered samples had undetectable (below the Method Detection Limit (<MDL)) levels of PFAS after the water was filtered through a Hydroviv filter (blue text in the table below). The results here are consistent with an earlier test report that looked at PFAS removal rates. We assembled the relevant data from the more recent study for our filters in the table below. 

Duke PFAS Water Filter Study

How Did Other Common Whole House, Pitcher, and Refrigerator Filters Perform?

Unfortunately, some of the most popular pitcher, refrigerator, and whole house filters did not perform well. Alarmingly, some systems by Berkey, Aquasana, Samsung, GE, and Brita, actually had HIGHER PFAS LEVELS in the filtered water than the unfiltered sample, because of over-saturation and low quality filtration media. The red text in the table below shows detectable PFAS levels in water filtered by other major brands.Duke Water Filter Study PFAS

How Did Reverse Osmosis Water Filters Perform?

This study evaluated a number of quality water filters that use reverse osmosis (RO) technology. In each of the RO systems that were tested, any water with PFAS present in the unfiltered sample also had undetectable levels in the filtrate.

If You’re Considering Purchasing a Water Filter That Was Not Part of this Study

The advice we give people looking for a water filter that removes PFAS is to ask the manufacturer for 3rd party test data for PFAS removal (not just PFOA/PFOS) at the beginning and end of the filter’s advertised lifetime. Unfortunately, there are a lot of water filter brands (including filters that performed horribly in this study) that show test data that were conducted when the filter cartridges were fresh, and do not show PFAS test data for the end of the advertised filter life (which they base off chlorine removal). Fortunately, Hydroviv’s Under Sink and Refrigerator Line Filters were tested at month 1 and month 6 as part of this study, as well as the filters that were tested as part of the NC State/CFPUA study several years ago.


Military Bases Have High Concentrations of Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

Analies Dyjak @ Thursday, August 23, 2018 at 4:44 pm -0400

***Updated 8/29/18 to include video***

Analies Dyjak  |  Policy Nerd

Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) have been receiving a ton of media attention throughout this past year. PFAS are a category of toxic contaminants that have invaded public and private drinking water systems across the entire country. Military bases are extremely susceptible to this type of contamination because of necessary on-base activities. If you would like to learn more about what PFAS are, their health effects, and if they're regulated, please click here. 

Why Do Military Bases Have High Concentrations of Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)?

Military bases have historically had issues with pollution, due to the nature of on-base activities. Municipal fire departments also travel to nearby military bases because they provide an open, secure area to train. So not only are military personnel being directly exposed to PFAS chemicals in water, but so are local fire departments. The Department of Defence isn’t necessarily to blame for the high rates of contamination of PFAS on military bases. The Manufacturers of PFAS-containing fire fighting foam who actively sell to the DOD are greatly at fault. Because there is no effective alternative on the market, the military has no choice but to continue purchasing and using these products. Unlike many other countries, the United States doesn’t use the precautionary principle in chemical manufacturing. This means that chemicals are introduced to the market before toxicological due diligence is completed. Most of the time it takes someone getting extremely sick for manufacturers to even begin to pay attention.

More often than not, military bases have their own underground private wells that provide drinking water to families living on base, rather than being apart of a public drinking water system. Fire fighting foam can either directly percolate into soil, or run off into surrounding surface water sources. Water from contaminated soil naturally recharges on-base drinking water wells, which families consume on a daily basis.

What Is The Department of Defense Doing About Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) on Military Bases?

The most recent data provided by the DOD stated that 99% people receiving non-DOD-treated water were served by systems with no violations, whereas only 89% of people receiving DOD-treated water were served by systems with no violations. It’s important to note that these data are from bases that voluntarily tested for PFAS chemicals in water, but they do however reiterate that military bases have higher concentrations of this contaminant than other areas in the country. In October of 2017, the US Government Accountability Office reported that the Department of Defense has taken action on PFAS. DOD has directly shut down wells or provided filtration to 11 military installations. This is definitely a step in the right direction, but there are over 400 military bases in the United States that are still contaminated. Approximately 3 million people in the US drink water provided by the DOD. Not only are active military personnel at risk, husbands, wives and children are being adversely impacted by PFAS chemicals in water. Again, manufacturers of these dangerous chemicals are mostly to blame for such high concentrations of PFAS contamination on military bases.

What Are Public Officials Doing About Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)?

EPA set a Lifetime Health Advisory Level of 70 parts per trillion for both PFOA and PFOS. The rule of thumb for PFAS is that the sum of the category of contaminants should be no higher than 70 parts per trillion. ATSDR believes this level should be reduced to 20 parts per trillion for drinking water. Again, Lifetime Health Advisory Levels and Minimum Risk Levels are non-enforceable limits that municipalities are not required to follow. DOD has not developed their own standard for PFAS in drinking water and therefore follow the non-enforceable national level of 70 parts per trillion. DOD is not at all incentivized to create a standard or even test for PFAS, because of the outrageous mitigation expenses.

Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
PFAS: What You Need To Know
Recap of EPA's 2018 PFAS National Leadership Summit
PFAS: Toxicological Profile

Parchment, Michigan: Drinking Water Contaminated With PFAS

Analies Dyjak @ Monday, July 30, 2018 at 4:50 pm -0400

Analies Dyjak  |  Policy Nerd

This past year, GenX, Per and Polyfluroalkyl Substances (PFAS), and other contaminants that fall into the broader category of Perfluorinated Compounds, have received major media coverage. Information regarding municipal water quality can quickly become obscured, so the goal of this article is to summarize key news components and scientific data.

Parchment, Michigan: Drinking Water Contaminated With PFAS

Sunday, July 29th, the Governor’s office announced a state of emergency for residents in the City of Parchment and Cooper Township, Michigan. Kalamazoo County Health Department detected PFAS in Parchments drinking water supply at concentrations as high as 1,587 parts per trillion. For a bit of perspective, this is almost 23 times higher than the Lifetime Health Advisory Level set by EPA and 79 times higher than the Minimum Risk Level set by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

City officials stated that the next course of action involves draining Parchments entire water supply. The City of Kalamazoo will then connect their water system to Parchment, and begin flushing the system until levels are below the Lifetime Health Advisory Level of 70 parts per trillion. Residents are being advised to not drink Parchment municipal water until further notice. The City of Parchment sources its drinking water from 3 groundwater wells in Cooper Township. Kalamazoo also uses groundwater, which is highly susceptible to this same type of contamination. Additionally, because this category of contaminants is unregulated, municipalities are not required to test for it. Kalamazoo did not test for PFAS in their most recent Consumer Confidence Report.

What Are Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)?

Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a category of “emerging contaminants,” which means they have been detected in the environment but the risk to human health is unknown. GenX, PFOA, and PFOS are all common contaminants that fall under the category of PFAS. These compounds have been used in industrial and consumer products since the early 1950’s. Scotchgard, Teflon, firefighting foam, metal plating, heat/water repellent products, and stain resistant fabrics are associated with this category of contaminants. PFAS are extremely persistent in the environment, which means they are highly resistant to degradation processes.

Are Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Regulated?

No. The entire class of contaminants is currently unregulated. This means that municipalities and state agencies are not required to test for it.

What Are The Health Effects of Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)?

According to a study done by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), PFAS exposure is associated with various adverse health effects, including an increased risk of cancer, lowered fertility rates, increased cholesterol, and developmental issues in infants and young children.

What Are Officials Doing About Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)?

EPA set a Lifetime Health Advisory Level of 70 parts per trillion for both PFOA and PFOS. The rule of thumb for PFAS is that the sum of the category of contaminants should be no higher than 70 parts per trillion. ATSDR believes this level should be reduced to 20 parts per trillion. Again, Lifetime Health Advisory Levels and Minimum Risk Levels are non-enforceable limits. As we know, the regulatory process in the United States can take decades, so these values should be taken with a grain of salt. Several types of PFAS appeared on the Third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, which is the only progress we’ve seen in terms of regulating this category of contaminants.

Want To Learn More About Perfluorinated Compounds?

Take advantage of Hydroviv's “help no matter what” approach to technical support! Go to hydroviv.com and use our live chat feature. Our Water Nerds will gladly answer any questions you might have regarding PFAS or anything else water related. If you live in Michigan and want more information about PFAS in your area, we recommend reaching out to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Toxicology Hotline at 800-648-6942.

Other Article We Think You Might Enjoy:
Military Bases Show High Levels of PFAS Contamination
Recap of the 2018 PFAS National Leadership Summit and Engagement
GenX Contamination In The Cape Fear River: What You Need To Know

Chemours To Pay $13 Million To The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality For Years Of PFAS Pollution

Analies Dyjak @ Wednesday, December 5, 2018 at 12:39 pm -0500

Analies Dyjak  |  Policy Nerd

Our Water Nerds have been closely following the environmental and public health disaster in North Carolina for a while now. This article provides an overview of the recent consent order, and some background information on what's going on in North Carolina. 

The Chemours Plant in Fayetteville, North Carolina has been discharging various per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (also known as PFAS) for decades. PFAS are a category of emerging contaminants that are found in some of the most popular consumer products such as Scotchgard, Gore-Tex, Teflon, and other stain/water resistant products. PFAS is also an important ingredient in firefighting foam, which has been a major source of water contamination throughout the country. In recent years, a replacement chemical for PFOA called GenX has dominated the conversation, particularly in North Carolina. In November 2018, EPA admitted that GenX is “suggestive” of cancer, which is significant for residents who have been unknowingly exposed.

$13 Million Awarded to NCDEQ

Chemours is awarding $13 million to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality in the form of civil penalties and investigative costs. In comparison to other PFAS-related settlements, this is by far one of the smallest. In early 2018, 3M paid the state of Minnesota $850 Million in environmental degradation. In 2017, DuPont was involved in a $670.7 million settlement in the Mid-Ohio Valley region for PFAS water contamination.

Overview Of The Consent Order

The Consent Order clearly lays out a timeline of air emission goals and wastewater discharge stipulations. Chemours’ National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit was revoked in early 2017 and the new Consent Order prohibits any sort of wastewater discharge until a NPDES permit is reallocated. Chemours must also create laboratory methods and test standards for all PFAS compounds released by the Fayetteville plant. Basic remediation plans must be agreed upon by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, North Carolina River Keepers, and Chemours. Chemours will also pay for water filtration for water filtration for residents on private wells. Concentrations of GenX must be above 140 parts per trillion or any updated health advisory, in order to be eligible for a filter. GenX is not the only PFAS compound detected in the Cape Fear area, and the consent order addresses that. the Residents can also be eligible for filtration if other PFAS compounds are detected in well water over 10 parts per trillion individually, and 70 parts per trillion combined. NCDEQ is currently seeking public comment regarding the recent settlement.

How Are Cape Fear Residents Responding?

Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) created a comprehensive breakdown of the Chemours consent order. The utility provider acknowledged that the settlement did not go far enough to cover the scope of GenX and PFAS water contamination in the Cape Fear area. In a press release, CFPUA talked about how the consent order did not acknowledge the PFAS sediment pollution at the bottom of the Cape Fear River. Any sort of dredge or fill could disturb the sediment and create GenX concentrations to sky rocket in drinking water. Local non-profit groups are also not in agreement with the Chemours settlement because they believe it does not go far enough to mitigate the scope of PFAS water contamination. The current consent order places most of the mitigative costs water utility providers which would of course be paid for by taxpayers.

Our Take:

In early November of 2018, EPA released a draft toxicity report for GenX, proposing a threshold of 80 parts per trillion for drinking water. The concentration deemed “safe” by North Carolina and Chemours is almost two times higher than what the EPA is proposing as safe. Health and regulatory agencies know very little about the adverse health effects of GenX and other PFAS compounds. It’s up to consumers to decide the best course of action to protect themselves and their families.

Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
EPA Admits That GenX Is Linked To Cancer
Military Bases and PFAS
Toxicological Profile For PFAS