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PFAS Concerns Loom Over Chemours Permit For Washington Works

A picture of a person in a red kayak on the Ohio River. The nonprofit, national clean river environmental organization American Rivers has included the Ohio River on its annual list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers.Ohio River Basin Alliance (ORBA)/Facebook

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is accepting public comment on a permit one group says would allow the discharge of PFAS into the Ohio River. 

Chemours applied in January for a permit to discharge treated wastewater from its Washington Works plant in Wood County.

The West Virginia Rivers Coalition says this would result in the release of PFAS, or forever chemicals, into the Ohio River.

The DEP held a virtual public comment hearing on the permit on March 4. The comment period closes next week, on March 14.

In December, Chemours agreed to sample and test soil, surface water, groundwater and waste streams around the Washington Works plant for the presence of PFAS.

The plant has been in operation since 1951, and according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has manufactured products containing PFAS and has released PFAS in its operations.

According to Chris Hickey, a regional communications manager for Chemours, Washington Works is the only U.S. facility that manufactures Teflon PFA, a type of PFAS.

Teflon PFA is in high demand to make semiconductors, Hickey said, because of the federal CHIPS Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden.

“To construct and operationalize additional PFA supply capacity, and with strong support throughout our value chain, we applied for a permit modification through the WV Department of Environmental Protection,” Hickey said. “We worked cooperatively with WV DEP through its process, which included agency evaluation of the permit application and engagement with regional EPA officials.”

In addition, Hickey said, the Washington Works makes materials used in electric vehicles and charging stations, also in high demand because of the national effort to electrify transportation.

“The world depends on our products, and we are committed to manufacturing these essential chemistries responsibly,” he said.