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Two in the spotlight over PFAS

Chemours has become the first company in the US to be subject to an enforcement action for discharging perfluorinated and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) from its Washington Works facility in Parkersburg, West Virginia, under the Clean Water Act. The EPA is now requiring it to implement a sampling plan analyse the release of PFAS and implement a plan to treat or minimise them.

The Washington Works discharges industrial process water and storm water to the Ohio River and its tributaries, under the terms of a state National Pollution Discharge Elimination System. This was issued in 2018 to replace one previously held by DuPont before their separation.

Discharge exceeded those allowed in the company’s permit on both GenX and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) many times between 2018 and March 2023, even though PFOA is no longer used at the site and this is related to legacy emissions affecting groundwater. Chemours, which has in the past sued DuPont over its legacy responsibilities, said that it has worked with the EPA on a consent decree “and will continue to take action to address the legacy deposition that contributed to many of the exceedances”.

Meanwhile in the UK, a report by daily newspaper The Guardian and Watershed Investigations has claimed that around 700 PFAS may be in the effluent discharged to the River Wyre from AGC Chemicals Europe’s site in Thornton Cleveleys, Lancashire. However, the company is not actually in breach of any UK or EU regulations as only PFOA and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) among the 10,000+ PFAS family are subject to restrictions on production and use.

Based on data provided by AGC, the UK Environment Agency found that 783 kg/year of EEA-NH4 is in the effluent. This PFAS is categorised as ‘very persistent’ and ‘mobile’ in the environment and reprotoxic category 2 to humans, although there are knowledge gaps about it where bioaccumulation in humans and animals is concerned. AGC is working with the Environment Agency to further understand potential concerns about the presence of EEA-NH4 in the environment.

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