State directs Chemours to provide bottled water to 11 nearby homeowners

Posted September 21

Cape Fear River

— State regulators have ordered Chemours to supply bottled water to a group of residents near the chemical company's Fayetteville Works plant after drinking water there showed elevated levels of GenX, used to make Teflon and other products.

The company, the chemical and several related compounds have been the center of an investigation since media reports widely revealed the presence of unregulated contaminants in the Cape Fear River, the primary source of drinking water for Brunswick, Bladen, New Hanover and Pender counties. The health effects of GenX, which is largely unstudied in humans, are not well understood, but state health officials have set a precautionary threshold of 140 parts per trillion concentration for the chemical in drinking water.

Cape Fear River Timeline: Tracking the route of GenX in the Cape Fear River

A news release from the Department of Environmental Quality on Thursday said the agency directed Chemours to supply bottled water to 11 homeowners near the Bladen County plant. Private wells on those 11 properties, one-third of the 32 wells sampled so far, exceeded the state's health goal for GenX. Tests at the other wells showed either no detectable levels of GenX or levels below the goal.

Although DEQ says the test results "have not been validated," they originally told the company to supply the water Friday "out of an abundance of caution," according to the release.

"We want to make sure people with elevated concentrations of GenX in their wells have an immediate alternative water source," DEQ Secretary Michael Regan said in the release. "Making sure people have clean drinking water is our top priority."

This week has seen a flurry of activity with regard to GenX and a group of related fluorinated compounds, all of which are unregulated, poorly studied and difficult to remove from drinking water.

On Thursday morning, Gov. Roy Cooper's office announced that he would veto legislation that would provide $435,000 for the cleanup and study of the chemicals discovered in the Cape Fear River. The legislation would also repeal a ban on plastic grocery bags along the Outer Banks. Cooper said the bill provided only a fraction of the $2.6 million he requested to take on the GenX issue, while weakening other environmental protections.

Republican leaders, who have criticized the Democratic governor's response to the GenX revelations, slammed Cooper's rejection of "the only proposal that will actually help clean our drinking water in the lower Cape Fear region" and vowed an override.

In a letter to Chemours Wednesday, state regulators demanded the company provide five years of data on any possible airborne release of GenX and related industrial chemicals also considered "emerging contaminants."

Chemours maintains it is "continuing to work closely with local, state and federal officials to determine the appropriate next steps."


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