FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — When residential wells in Cumberland County were found to be contaminated with PFAS, including what became known as the forever chemical GenX, all roads led to the nearby Chemours plant. PFAS are used to make non-stick surfaces.

At the time in 2017, now EPA administrator Michael Regan was head of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. Back in his home state, CBS 17 caught up with him at the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce Sustainability Conference on Wednesday.

“I was proud of what we did when I was Secretary of Environmental Quality in fining Chemours the largest fine in state history and also holding them accountable to clean up their mess, Regan said. “Secretary Biser is now leading that process and she’s holding them accountable assuring that they are doing the things that they are required to do.”

Chemours has since undergone projects like the use of on-site emissions control technology, thermal oxidizers, and reverse osmosis systems.

“Listen, we want to be sure that we provide these local utilities adequate resources, but also want to make the polluters pay the ultimate price for contaminating our bodies and our land and our water,” said Regan. Those utility services include water supplied by the Cape Fear River to hundreds of thousands of people who live downstream.

Chemours is building a mile-long underground barrier wall to keep contaminants from leaching into the river, but missed its DEQ imposed deadline of March 15.

Chemours responded to CBS 17’s request for comment by saying:

“Chemours updated the agency on the progress of our barrier wall and groundwater extraction and treatment project in Fayetteville, NC. At present, the groundwater extraction and treatment system has been installed and is progressing toward being fully operational. Additionally, we have made significant progress on the construction of the barrier wall, and we expect it to be complete in late April or May.

At the time Chemours proposed the project, the company and DEQ recognized that various factors could impact and lengthen the projected completion date of March 15, 2023, including adjusting the start of construction to allow time for DEQ approval of the project and appropriate permitting. Chemours has also worked with our contract partners to resolve routine construction challenges such as supply of materials and mechanical breakdowns of equipment, and the company and our partners have adjusted staffing to mitigate the impact to timing of these challenges.

Chemours is appreciative of the support we’ve received from DEQ and our community as we construct this state-of-the-art groundwater extraction and treatment system and first-of-its kind barrier wall. Once complete, the system will capture and then treat groundwater with a removal efficiency of at least 99%. We are proud of our investment into this technology, which is unlike that of any other company that we know of in the State of North Carolina, to address emissions of fluorinated organic compounds. The world depends on our products, and we are committed to manufacturing them responsibly.”

In a letter to Fayetteville Works Plant Manager Dawn Hughes, NCDEQ informed the company:

“We have received your letter dated March 1, 2023 regarding a revised schedule for completion of the barrier wall project at Chemours Fayetteville Works. NC DEQ has determined that the revised schedule, which requires project completion no later than May 31, 2023, is consistent with the Consent Order and Consent Order Addendum”

Regan said while the State of North Carolina is ultimately responsible for making sure Chemours lives up to its end of the agreement, the EPA is there to help. “Obviously any resources that we can provide to the state, technical assistance, any advice on enforcement we stand ready to help the state.”