Economy

North Carolina ‘Forever Chemical’ Plant Violates Human Rights, U.N. Panel Says

The dumping of contaminated wastewater by a chemical plant on the Cape Fear River began more than four decades ago, making the river water unsafe to drink for 100 miles.

This week, in response to a petition by community groups in North Carolina, a United Nations panel called the pollution a human rights issue.

The U.N. concerns about human-rights violations, the kind of claims that Americans might be more used to seeing leveled at foreign countries, broaden the scope of a global fight over the harms from what are known as forever chemicals, or by their acronym PFAS. They are the subject of a yearslong dispute over their dangers.

Chemours, the chemicals giant that took over the plant in 2015, and DuPont before it, “are completely disregarding the rights and well-being of residents” along the river, a panel of U.N. human rights experts said.

The pollution continues “even as DuPont and Chemours had information about the toxic impacts of PFAS on human health and drinking water,” they said, using the acronym for polyfluoroalkyl substances, a group of chemicals, many of which are toxic.

Chemours said it was “committed to responsibly manufacturing and producing products in a manner consistent with international principles.” The products it makes at its plant at Fayetteville, N.C., contributed to “vital technologies for green hydrogen, electric vehicles and semiconductor manufacturing,” the company said. Chemours is currently moving ahead with plans to expand the Fayetteville plant.

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