Local News

Farmers, neighbors worry about GenX in groundwater

Posted December 5, 2017 5:15 p.m. EST
Updated July 13, 2018 1:40 p.m. EDT

— Up and down Pages Lake Road in Bladen County, residents have a new worry about the release of a chemical from a nearby manufacturing plant.

A representative of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality told a science advisory board Monday that honey collected by a beekeeper there tested for GenX and found levels nearly 15 times higher than the health goal set by state officials. When Gel Labs tested a sample from the farmer, it came back at 2,070 parts per trillion, compared with the health goal of 140 parts per trillion set by the state Department of Health and Human Services.

GenX is an unregulated chemical used by manufacturer Chemours to make Teflon and other products at a plant on the Cumberland-Bladen county line.

The farmer makes honey for the consumption of family and friends, but after DEQ expressed concerns, he agreed to dispose of it.

“As the community looks at this, as the state looks at this, we are looking at all media we need to look at,” said Michael Scott, the director of DEQ’s Division of Waste Management, adding that others being considered include water, soil, air and potentially fish.

That concerns Kelly Hair, whose family has two wells, one of which tested positive for GenX.

"We're only like a mile, mile and a half from the plant," Kelly Hair said Tuesday. "What are they saying about our property?"

She is unhappy with official reassurances.

"They sent a letter saying it's OK for 10 percent to be in your well? Shouldn't be nothing in our well," Hair said.

Her family uses the well to water their garden. Now she is worried the crops put up for the winter won't be safe to eat.

GenX has been shown to cause cancer in mice, but it hasn’t been studied extensively, so its health impact on humans is unknown.

"Who's to say what's going to happen with our health. We don't know," she said.

Hair's family is among those getting bottled drinking water from Chemours.

DEQ officials remain unsure whether the viscosity of honey could have affected the test results and have asked their counterparts at the Environmental Protection Agency for guidance.

Lisa Childers, director of the Cumberland County Center of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, said, "At this point, until we do further testing and investigation, it's really hard to know exactly what the implications are going to be from GenX."

Area residents are being invited to a public information session Dec. 14 at 6 p.m. at Gray's Creek High School.

Some reporting in this story courtesy Fayetteville Observer.