© 2024 Blue Ridge Public Radio
Blue Ridge Mountains banner background
Your source for information and inspiration in Western North Carolina.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

"Chemours, don't be bad guys": Residents protest proposed Fayetteville Works expansion

Protesters chanted and made speeches outside Chemours' public information session this week.
Grace Vitaglione
Protesters chanted and made speeches outside Chemours' public information session this week.

Many residents who came to the public information session on Wednesday were not happy with the proposed expansion.

Protesters brought signs with messages such as, “Chemours, don’t be bad guys,” and “Get your PFAS out of our blood, then talk to us about expansion.”

Regina O’Donnell, a nurse practitioner in Wilmington, said she believes her family has been personally harmed by PFAS contamination — particularly her husband, who has a rare form of cancer.

“Expanding their operations in the face of what they've already done, the harm that they've done; it's unbelievable,” she said.

Many residents stood for 45 minutes or more in the sun to get inside the building, as only groups of ten were allowed in at a time. Each group had about 15 minutes, and some complained afterward about not having their questions answered.

A resident named Lou Joyce attended with her two friends, all of them over 70 years old. They arrived 45 minutes early, and were still waiting half an hour past opening.

“How am I feeling? I’m faint, because I'm hot,” she said.

Planned expansion

If approved, the expansion would be at the Fayetteville Works Site, where there has been decades of contamination, discharging PFAS chemicals into the Cape Fear River.

The plant manager at the Fayetteville Works Site, Dawn Hughes, said a corporate remediation group at Chemours is focused on the contamination, and funding is set aside for that effort. The capital for the proposed expansion will be funded from the business itself, she said, the amount of which will be dependent on the permits they receive.

“We wanted to be clear with everyone that it's not an ‘or,’ it's an ‘and.’ Those remediation projects for this historic contamination are a very high priority,” she said.

In response to how the expansion could influence the reputation of Chemours in North Carolina, Hughes said the key is education.

“There's, I believe, some misinformation out there. So education is going to be important, and to ensure that the community understands that that work is continuing, we are not done,” she said.

Hughes said the expansion is occurring now because of the high demand for the materials Chemours manufactures.

Sean Uhl, sustainability technology director at Chemours, said the expansion would involve upgrading about 10% of the current equipment and will not involve creating new assets. He also said the expansion will not lead to any increase in overall emissions or discharge of chemicals.

That’s because the upgraded equipment will be more emissions efficient, and the new emissions from the expansion will be offset by reductions in other areas, according to Uhl.

The expansion will have a small amount of air and water emissions, according to Christal Compton, Environmental Manager for the Fayetteville Works Site. This means Chemours will need a permit from the North Carolina Department of Air Quality. The company will submit an application for that permit in October.

According to Compton, the level of GenX emissions will remain under their current limit of 23 pounds a year.

'Dog and Pony show'

After hearing the presentation from Chemours, Deborah Maxwell, president of North Carolina NAACP and a board member of Cape Fear River Watch, said her mind wasn’t changed.

“It just felt like a dog and pony show; it’s rehearsed, it’s hashed out so that we can support this. Which, trust me, I doubt we will,” she said.

Copyright 2022 WHQR. To see more, visit WHQR.

Grace Vitaglione