More data shows elevated levels of GenX in well water

Posted October 4, 2017 1:42 p.m. EDT
Updated October 4, 2017 1:54 p.m. EDT

Treated wastewater flows from an outfall pipe from the Chemours plant into the Cape Fear River.

— State environmental regulators say more Bladen County residents will get bottled water after new data showed elevated levels of the unregulated compound known as GenX in additional private wells near the plant where the compound is produced.

Seven more wells have tested above the state's health goal for the compound, bringing the total number to 26. The state Department of Environmental Quality has directed GenX manufacturer Chemours to supply bottled water to all residents who use those wells, which have concentrations of GenX above 140 parts per trillion.

Sampling of wells near the company's Fayetteville Works plant have been ongoing since September after testing showed GenX in the water of industrial wells located at the plant. So far, the company and the state have tested 85 wells for both GenX and other related fluorinated compounds like PFOS and PFOA, a chemical known to cause cancer and other health problems. Regulators said none of the drinking water wells have shown elevated levels for PFOS or PFOA.

DEQ Secretary Michael Regan said in a statement that his agency is informing well owners of their test results by phone and "will continue to do so until all the results are received and finalized."

"Protecting peoples' drinking water is our top priority," Regan said. "As we get results, we want to make sure people whose wells have been found to have high levels of fluorinated compounds are provided bottled water."

Wednesday's announcement from DEQ marks the third week in a row the agency has increased the number of residents supplied with bottled water as test results continue to roll in.

The environmental agency, along with the state Department of Health and Human Services, will hold a community information session on the testing from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the Gray's Creek Elementary School gym, at 2964 School Road in Hope Mills.

The announcement comes the same day state lawmakers overrode Gov. Roy Cooper's veto of a bill that would direct some state money to study the issue of GenX and other emerging contaminants in the Cape Fear River, the primary source of drinking water for Brunswick, Bladen, New Hanover and Pender counties.

Cooper vetoed the measure, which also included a repeal of a ban on plastic grocery bags in the Outer Banks, because he said it weakened environmental protections and provided only a fraction of the money he asked for to address the contaminants in the river.

Republican leaders said the measure was a first step toward solving the problem and blasted Cooper for delaying their attempts to study it.

Meanwhile, Chemours declined to attend a public hearing with state lawmakers about GenX and other contaminants Tuesday, opting instead to meet with environmental regulators behind closed doors to discuss the two sides' ongoing legal dispute about the discharge of chemicals into the river.