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Chemours using U.S. as unregulated dump for Europe's toxic waste

Staff Writer |
After many years of treating the developing world as its environmental dumping ground, the U.S. is finally getting a taste of what it feels like to be on the receiving end of another country’s dangerous garbage.

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DuPont-spinoff Chemours is sending industrial waste from the Netherlands to North Carolina.

The waste in question comes from the production of the toxic chemical GenX, DuPont’s replacement for the surfactant PFOA, which was long used in the production of Teflon and many other products.

Unlike the Netherlands, the U.S. has so far declined to regulate GenX waste, so disposing of the material is comparatively easy.

Chemours has been transporting the GenX waste from its plant in Dordrecht, Netherlands, to Fayetteville, North Carolina, according to documents that surfaced last week and were first reported in NC Policy Watch.

In December, the Environmental Protection Agency sent a letter to a representative of the Dutch Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate, temporarily objecting to the import and asking for clarification about where exactly the waste was being sent.

According to the EPA letter, citing a “letter of intent,” some of Chemours’s GenX waste from the Netherlands was supposedly destined for an incinerator in El Dorado, Arkansas, which is run by a company called Clean Harbors.

But Phillip Retallick, senior vice president of Clean Harbors, said that his company is not receiving the material.

“We are not in any way shape or form involved with the reclamation of the waste from the Fayetteville facility,” said Retallick.

As The Intercept reported, the incineration of PFAS compounds, the class to which GenX belongs, may raise safety concerns.

The EPA letter also indicated that the Fayetteville plant was sending waste to a deep well injection plant run by Texas Molecular in Deer Park, Texas.

Deep well injection, a technique pioneered by DuPont in the 1950s, involves storing toxic waste far below ground.

Deep wells have repeatedly leaked, resulting in contamination of both groundwater and drinking water.

When asked whether his company was receiving the GenX waste, Texas Molecular’s president, Frank Marine, declined to comment.

According to its website, Texas Molecular, whose motto is “deep commitment,” provides “responsible and safe treatment and disposal solutions for even those most challenging industrial hazardous aqueous waste and wastewaters.”

DuPont developed GenX and introduced it in 2009 to replace PFOA, which persists indefinitely in the environment and is linked to cancer and other illnesses.

GenX presents many of the same health and environmental problems, and causes cancer in lab animals, as The Intercept reported in 2016.

From 2014 until at least 2017, Chemours had been sending at least some of its GenX waste from the Netherlands to Miteni SpA, a chemical company in the Veneto region of Italy.

Last year, tests revealed GenX in groundwater and wells near the Italian plant, contamination that has already led to health effects.

Regional authorities then suspended some of the company’s operations.

Miteni SpA, which was already under fire for causing massive PFOA contamination, filed for bankruptcy in October and ceased operation.

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