By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On May 28, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report entitled EPA Toxic Substances Control Act Consent Orders Need Better Coordination. OIG conducted the evaluation to determine what actions EPA took to verify compliance with the requirements of the 2009 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Premanufacture Notice Consent Order with DuPont (responsibilities transferred to The Chemours Company in 2015) to prevent the release of GenX chemicals in the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. OIG notes that GenX chemicals are a type of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) found in surface water, groundwater, drinking water, rain water, and air emissions. OIG found insufficient communication and coordination between the two EPA offices responsible for developing and enforcing the consent order requirements designed to reduce risks in the manufacture of GenX chemicals. Under the 2009 Consent Order, EPA required DuPont to determine how to recover and capture 99 percent of GenX’s manufacturing discharges and air emissions. The Consent Order was not reviewed or approved by the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA), which is responsible for conducting inspections to verify compliance, however. Until June 2017, EPA’s actions to verify compliance with the 2009 Consent Order and new chemicals testing requirements consisted of tracking and reviewing information provided by the manufacturer. According to OIG, following the local media coverage of the presence of GenX chemicals in the Cape Fear River in 2017, Region 4 and EPA contractors conducted EPA’s first on-site compliance monitoring inspection at the Fayetteville Works facility, which manufactures GenX. OIG found that the Region 4 inspectors were unaware of the 2009 Consent Order and its requirements until the inspection was requested by EPA headquarters.
OIG recommends that EPA establish and implement processes:
- For OECA to review and approve the terms and conditions of TSCA Section 5(e) Consent Orders that it is responsible for verifying during compliance monitoring and enforcement activities; and
- To provide final TSCA Section 5(e) Consent Orders to regions and verify that the regions have the final consent orders.
OIG states that EPA “did not provide an acceptable corrective action for Recommendation 1, and we consider this recommendation unresolved.” For Recommendation 2, EPA provided an alternative course of action that OIG finds acceptable. OIG considers Recommendation 2 resolved with corrective action pending.