After years of litigation over PFOA, an industrial toxin used to make Teflon and other non-stick and stain-resistant products, in 2009 DuPont introduced GenX. Now the slippery substitute has followed the path of the molecule it replaced, contaminating water near plants in West Virginia and North Carolina and attracting its own intense legal interest.
The lawsuits over PFOA exposed the chemical’s links to several diseases, including kidney and testicular cancer. Like PFOA, also known as C8, GenX is a perfluorinated compound, and as with PFOA, GenX was the subject of internal DuPont research showing it poses many of the same health concerns as the original chemical. Also like PFOA, GenX persists indefinitely in the environment.
In the past two weeks, two citizens groups in North Carolina announced plans to sue Chemours, the DuPont spin-off company that now makes GenX, over its release of the chemical from its plant in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority issued a letter of intent to sue both Chemours and DuPont last week over violations of the Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act by releasing GenX into the Cape Fear River, which is a source of drinking water for more than 250,000 people in the Wilmington area. A conservative group called Civitas also announced its intention to sue Chemours over GenX. Both groups must wait at least 60 days after sending the letters before filing suit.
The legal activity adds to the pressure on Chemours over GenX in North Carolina. On July 22, the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of North Carolina served the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality with a criminal subpoena to appear before a grand jury on August 22 and supply all records pertaining to the release of GenX into the Cape Fear River.