Federal prosecutors have declined to pursue criminal charges against a chemical company that for years discharged compounds with health risks that aren’t fully understood into a North Carolina river, the company disclosed.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Environmental Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Justice Department were investigating potential violations of the federal Clean Water Act by The Chemours Co., a spinoff of DuPont that has a plant near Fayetteville, WRAL-TV reported.
In 2017, it was found that Chemours was releasing a compound called GenX into the air and water near the plant, which eventually made it into drinking water sources including the Cape Fear River. GenX is a chemical used in nonstick surfaces such as Teflon. The EPA classifies it as an “emerging contaminant” needing research, but has previously said animal studies suggest it can affect organs.
Chemours Co. told shareholders in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing released this month that prosecutors notified the company in March they were declining to pursue charges and were closing the case.
Chemours said that during the course of the review, it met with prosecutors, responded to subpoenas and sent witnesses to testify before a grand jury and to be interviewed by government investigators.
The company has also faced lawsuits and a state investigation. In a consent order with North Carolina in 2018, it agreed to pay a $12 million penalty and $1 million for investigative costs, and to sharply reduce air emissions of GenX. The company also agreed at the time to conduct studies of the health risks posed by releases into the environment of GenX and other per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.
The EPA also said last year it would create a plan to help communities with monitoring and detecting PFAS pollution, though critics said more aggressive action was needed.
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