Water systems respond to report of toxin in area water supply

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Water providers are trying to reassure customers after a StarNews report about a toxin discovered in the system that serves about 200,000 people in the area with drinking water.

The newspaper reported yesterday that GenX, a chemical replacement for a key ingredient in Teflon, has been found in the drinking water system of the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority. GenX, which the StarNews story says has been linked to cancer and other ailments, is made by the Chemours Co. at Fayetteville Works on the Cumberland-Bladen county line along the Cape Fear River about 100 miles upstream from Wilmington.

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The StarNews report cites a researcher at NC State, who has traced GenX from Fayetteville to Wilmington, saying he estimates about 250,000 people are affected in Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender counties.

So far today, CFPUA has not responded to multiple requests from WWAY for comment on the story. But other area water providers have reached out.

Brunswick County Public Utilities (BCPU) said in a news release its water “meets all EPA and state standards regarding water quality, including monitoring for the presence and concentration of dozens of different chemicals and substances, with the results of more than 25 of those substances reported annually. The EPA has a process to evaluate new chemicals to determine their potential impact at different levels and to set quality and safety standards, if any are needed; currently, GenX and approximately 700 other chemicals are in this process and being monitored.”



But BCPU said at this time, data is not readily available on whether GenX is of concern. The county-run utility said local utilities have asked state regulators for more information.

BCPU pulls water from the Cape Fear River and sells it directly to customers as well as in bulk to H2Go, which serves homes and businesses in the northern part of Brunswick County. H2Go also says its water meets all state and federal guidelines.

But H2Go says it may have a solution other providers don’t in trying to rid water of the toxin: its plan to build a reverse osmosis water treatment facility, which has been the topic of much debate recently.

“Surface water supplies by nature are vulnerable to contamination and that is just one of the many reasons why H2GO began work six years ago to evaluate alternate water supplies and treatment options for our service area,” a news release from H2Go read in part. “The decision to move forward with deep-well groundwater supplies and reverse osmosis water treatment eliminates the threat of these emerging unregulated contaminates. The reverse osmosis water treatment plant will eliminate our dependence on the Cape Fear River, will improve drinking water quality, will maintain customer water rates at or below existing rates, and will ensure the long-term financial viability of the utility.”

But in just the last several days there have been strong attempts at blocking H2Go’s plan for the $30 million plant. After receiving a petition with hundreds of signatures against the plant Brunswick County Commissioners asked H2Go to wait until after this fall’s elections for its board of directors before deciding to move ahead with the plan. H2Go currently spends about $1.8 million a year buying water from the county’s BCPU.

Also this week, the Town of Leland said it is appealing a state permit issued for H2Go to build the reverse osmosis plant citing concerns about waste discharge from the plant into the Brunswick River. The town says the case is set to be heard in October in Brunswick County Court.

WWAY NEWS will have much more on this story starting tonight and continuing coverage as more information becomes available.