Toxin GenX adds more problems to already endangered river

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The Cape Fear River Watch is a local organization who keeps an eye on the water quality in the Lower Cape Fear Basin.

The Cape Fear River Watch says they are concerned for humans and animals after a recent report about a toxin found in the area’s drinking water.

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“I’m drinking the water,” Executive Director Frank Yelverton said. “I do not know if it’s safe or not.”

Water is a necessity and whether we use it to drink, cook, or shower it plays a critical role in our daily lives. It’s unclear though how safe our water really is.

“We have filters on faucets, on our refrigerator, but I don’t know at this time if that removes it, probably not,” Yelverton said.

Last week, the StarNews reported 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.

“It’s one of those many new chemicals out there and we really don’t know the effect of it,” Yelverton said. “EPA has said it is a probable carcinogen, but we don’t know what kind of concentration.”

Cape Fear Riverkeeper Kemp Burdette says this is a stark and frightening reminder that our health is tied directly to the health of our river. Yelverton adds treating the water only would cover up the symptoms and the problem should be cleaned up at the source.

“It’s very important to our health of adults, pregnant women, for children,” Yelverton said. “It’s important to everybody so we need to be concerned about it. It’s not only drinking water though. It’s water used by fish and wildlife in the area so we need to be concerned about them too.”

Yelverton says the chemical can be treated with a reverse osmosis water system. That is something he’s thought about getting for his home.

He says research is limited on what impact GenX could lead to but hopes action will be taken quickly.

In April, the Cape Fear River was named as the 7th most endangered river in the country by American Rivers. Industrial agriculture waste in floodplains threatens clean water supplies and public health, now GenX could be a part of that.