News Feature | August 8, 2017

NC Governor Visits Water Utility Over GenX Concerns

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

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North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper visited a water treatment plant last week amid concerns about GenX contamination in the Cape Fear River.

Pender County’s water treatment plant draws from the river, according to WWAY. “It’s important to us that the GenX issue is dealt with and we’re glad to see the governor come down,” Pender County Commission Chair George Brown said.

Cooper delineated what the state is doing to address water quality concerns. He said the state is working on a new permit for Chemours, a Dupont spinoff and GenX discharger, that will prevent the company from releasing GenX into the river. The governor’s office may also propose new water quality legislation.

The governor previously called for criminal investigations into Chemours. He said he asked the State Bureau of Investigations to launch a probe, WWAY reported.

“I want to know if any criminal violation has occurred here,” Cooper said, per the report.

A release from Cooper’s office detailed the multi-pronged approach to addressing the Cape Fear contamination. Studying the potential long-term health impacts of drinking water from the Cape Fear River is part of the approach:

Governor Cooper spoke with the Director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, to request a public health assessment to review any potential long-term health effects of GenX. Chemours disclosed that they have been discharging GenX as a byproduct from another manufacturing process since 1980. The CDC has the expertise needed to conduct complex exposure modeling that will give citizens a better understanding of any potential health risks from the last 30 years. Dr. Fitzgerald told the governor the CDC will begin these studies. Local, state and federal authorities will need to work together to provide all available data to the CDC.

After high levels of GenX were found in the Cape Fear River, state regulators began to pressure industry polluters to safeguard waterways from this contaminant.

GenX, a persistent and toxic industrial chemical used to replace perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), has been detected in North Carolina drinking water. “DuPont introduced GenX in 2009 to replace PFOA, a compound it used to manufacture Teflon and coatings for stain-resistant carpeting, waterproof clothing, and many other consumer products,” The Intercept reported.

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Source Water Contamination Solutions Center.

Image credit: "water faucet," karen nador © 2002, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/