PFAS discharges from US plant denied community access to safe water, UN advisors assert

Chemours Fayetteville Works plant

Source: © Associated Press/Alamy Stock Photo

The Fayetteville Works plant on the Cape Fear river has been producing PFAS (and discharging waste into the river at various levels) for decades

Nine United Nations human rights advisors, including special rapporteur on toxics and human rights Marcos Orellana, have issued a statement accusing DuPont and Chemours of discharging dangerous per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) into the local environment along the lower Cape Fear river in North Carolina, US. Community members have reportedly been denied their right of access to clean and safe water for decades, they said.

‘Even as DuPont and Chemours had information about the toxic impacts of PFAS on human health and drinking water, the companies continued to produce and discharge PFAS,’ the UN experts stated on 21 February. ‘DuPont and Chemours have produced, marketed and profited from PFAS for decades, contributing to a global toxic contamination problem.’

The statement also follows a formal request by the community action group Clean Cape Fear in May 2023, that the UN investigate multiple alleged human rights violations related to Chemours’ release of PFAS from its Fayetteville plant into the river. The petition was part of an effort to block a request by Chemours to expand the facility. The UN has not disclosed whether its expression of concern is linked to that petition.

In response to the UN’s concerns, Chemours said it has taken ‘a broad and unprecedented set of actions’, costing hundreds of millions of dollars, to eliminate almost all PFAS discharges from its Fayetteville Works. ‘We are proud of the investments we’ve made to reduce emissions from our manufacturing site, and the significant progress we’ve made to eliminate 99% of fluorinated organic chemical emissions from our global manufacturing sites by 2030,’ the company added.

Meanwhile, the firm now known as DuPont de Nemours (since DuPont’s 2015 spin-out of Chemours, subsequent merger with Dow Chemical and reorganisation), has sought to distance itself from any historical liability relating to PFAS and the Fayetteville site. ‘To implicate DuPont de Nemours in these issues disregards these varied corporate histories, the movement of product lines and personnel that now exist with entirely different companies,’ DuPont stated.