Emerging compounds are relatively unknown compounds that are increasingly being detected in soil, groundwater and surface water. As science advances, laboratories are able to detect these compounds and researchers are discovering new details about their impacts. The emerging compounds known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS is of concern both nationally and in North Carolina. This is a group of are man-made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS and GenX, and are found in a wide range of consumer products. The science and research about emerging contaminants is quickly expanding, so DEQ has created a list of resources to help North Carolinians learn more.
What are PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances?
PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, refers to a group of man-made chemicals. They are widely used in commercial and consumer products such as food packaging, water- and stain-repellent fabrics, nonstick products and firefighting foams. They are also commonly used in industrial processes and manufacturing. Because of their widespread use, these compounds are present in household and industrial waste, air emissions and discharges.
PFAS are often called “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down in the environment and can build up, or bioaccumulate, in humans and animals.
The N.C. Department Environmental Quality (DEQ), along with the state Department of Health and Human Services, began investigating the presence of a compound known as GenX in the Cape Fear River in June 2017. The state’s investigation focused on the protection of public health and drinking water and quickly identified the Chemours Fayetteville Works facility as the producer of GenX.
Following the state's extensive investigative actions, DEQ developed and signed a Consent Order in February 2019 that requires Chemours to:
- Provide clean water for those with PFAS-impacted private wells.
- Address all sources of PFAS at the facility to prevent further impacts to air, soil, groundwater and surface waters
- Clean up previous contamination of the soil and groundwater.