UNCW biologist, local engineer not drinking water after GenX discovery

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) —¬†Until more is known about GenX, one UNCW biology professor and a local engineer will not drink tap water.

When the news first broke about the discovery of GenX in the Cape Fear River, those who knew of GenX had a similar reaction.

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“Oh crap,” UNCW Biology and Marine Biology Professor Larry Cahoon said. “We’re in trouble.”

“I was very upset about it,” President of Catlin Engineers and Scientists Rick Catlin said.

UNCW Biologist Larry Cahoon said he does not know much about GenX, but what he knows is enough to be concerned.



“This is, in my view, more of a risk than we should be forced to take,” Cahoon said.

He said GenX has not been studied much, because it is an emerging contaminant.

“This compound is a member of a class of compounds that are all thought to be able to make people sick,” Cahoon said. “With cancers of various kinds, other kinds of dysfunction. We don’t know the full extent of it.”

Cahoon said their Ecotoxicologist informed him that GenX is an endocrine disruptor, which means it affects hormone function. He said it probably also affects immune system function and it builds up in your tissues over time.

President of Catlin Engineers and Scientists Rick Catlin said he also does not know enough about GenX.

“To be chemically correct, it’s important that it be evaluated before I give an opinion,” Catlin said.

With what these scientists do know, we asked them if they think the water is safe enough to drink.

“Nope,” Cahoon said. “I’ll drink tequila straight, but I won’t drink tap water any more.”

“I have a house and I’m not drinking the water,” Catlin said. “I’m not going to tell people it’s not safe, because that may not be true.”

For now, Catlin and Cahoon say more research is needed before anyone will know what risk we are actually taking.

“This is a wake up that we really need to look at it and do it fast,” Catlin said.

“The studies that are telling us oh it’s okay the risk is low,” Cahoon said. “I don’t buy it. There is a lot more we need to know before that assessment can be made with confidence.”