Chemours CEOsteps deep intowell of distrust

We needed help picking up our jaws from the floor as we read “Chemours CEO downplays health impact of GenX” in The Fayetteville Observer on Friday.

The story originated with The Wilmington StarNews from a conference call between Chemours CEO Mark Vergnano and stock analysts to discuss the company’s financial performance in 2017. It became clear very quickly that Vergnano appears to live in a corporate, delusional bubble. Vergnano did his company image no favors with his comments, which were incredibly disrespectful and condescending.

Let’s start with the contradictions.

Vergnano is quoted as saying Chemours has heard the “community’s concerns in North Carolina” and “the company is taking all these issues very seriously.” These two quotes could be taken out of context because they appear at two different segments of the interview — however, the discussion still centered around the GenX issue and, with that, they contradict each other because Vergnano goes on to claim “we continue to believe that none of the discharges … have adversely impacted anyone’s health.”

Take that all you private well owners in the region who have GenX in your groundwater.

So, in addition to being the company CEO, Vergnano is apparently also a scientist. Those working hard with the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality and other experts readily admit there is so little information about the potential affects of GenX and other chemical compounds being produced and released by Chemours into the land and air, yet Vergnano is convinced there is nothing to fear.

We think Vergnano is practicing his we’re-innocent-and-good-luck-proving-otherwise courtroom mumbo-jumbo. But we think any one of the Bladen County folks whose well has been shut down would love to have Vergnano visit them for a drink of well water, meal prepared with well water and a shower using the well water. We’d gladly be there to document the event — but it’ll never happen.

Within the same interview, Vergnano claims that Chemours reported a revenue of $1.58 billion during the last quarter of 2017. For the entire year, the company realized $6.18 billion in revenue for a profit of $746 million.

But here’s what that story didn’t say: Despite the company’s numerous chemical spills — some reported, some not; some big, some small and some unknown — Chemours is using a portion of its $746 million in profits to provide affected private well owners with … bottled water. And even that came as a mandate from the state’s DEQ.

To make matters worse, Vergnano admitted the company has remained silent on the issue — but his reason should be yet another loogie aimed at the eye of every resident affected by the GenX issue: “We’ve been intentionally quiet … out of respect for the process.” More pre-courtroom mumbo-jumbo.

What is needed is not respect for the process, but respect for the people — the governing boards that welcomed Chemours into the community, the employees who believed the company was providing a safe working environment, but most importantly, the residents who trusted the industry to be a good neighbor and instead are wondering how deep the well of deception goes.

Some local folks may think this entire issue will have a positive end if everyone remains patient. But Vergnano makes it clear in our mind that the corporate giant cares little about the grassroots effect of its carelessness, and we think the arrogance being shown — between the lack of public comments and the words finally spewed by Vergnano — shows the only path to satisfaction is going to be through the courts.



“Refusing to own your mistakes doesn’t make you seem more competent; it reveals cowardice and untrustworthiness.” (Ben Carpenter)