Internal watchdog faults EPA communications in contamination of North Carolina river

Internal watchdog faults EPA communications in contamination of North Carolina river
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An internal watchdog said Thursday that a lack of communication at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prevented the agency from monitoring chemical levels in a North Carolina river that became contaminated.

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) said in its report that a regional EPA office in 2017 was not aware of an order from eight years earlier that the chemical company DuPont was required to destroy or recycle certain chemicals from one of its facilities near the Cape Fear River.

The 2009 order set rules for DuPont's handling of a specific type of PFAS chemical, which have been linked to cancer, and said the company needed to submit testing results to the EPA.

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The OIG found that the agency's Southeast regional office was not aware of the order until 2017 when EPA headquarters asked it to conduct an inspection following local news coverage of PFAS in the river.

“We found that insufficient communication and coordination...hampered the Agency’s ability to monitor and determine compliance with the 2009 Consent Order requirements,” the inspector general’s office said.

In its official response to the OIG report, the EPA stated that its offices have already “enhanced coordination and developed new tools” to help with monitoring by its compliance office and regional offices.

The EPA added that it now compiles information from orders made under the Toxic Substances Control Act in an internal database and shares this information with its regional offices.