State releases first water quality data, lowers health goal of GenX in the Cape Fear


SOUTHEASTERN, NC (WWAY) — State officials today released their first results of water quality samples and an updated preliminary health assessment for concentrations of the unregulated compound GenX in finished, or treated, drinking water.

The revised health goal for exposure to GenX in drinking water is 140 nanograms per liter, which is also referred to as parts per trillion.

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The Department of Environmental Quality says samples were analyzed at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lab in Research Triangle Park and at Test America, a lab in Colorado under contract to Chemours.

According to the DEQ, data from samples collected June 19 and July 6 show that the most recent results of finished, or treated, water in all but one facility were below the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ health goal of 140 parts per trillion. The data also revealed that concentrations of GenX are trending downward.

Although no information is available about recreational health risks, people should refrain from swimming near the Chemours facility.

“Our goal is to protect the safety and health of all North Carolinians,” said Mandy Cohen, secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. “We are working closely with our partners at the Department of Environmental Quality to understand and communicate information in a timely manner, to help those impacted.”

N.C. Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Michael Regan added, “Safe drinking water is a top priority for this administration, and DEQ takes seriously its responsibility to protect the health and welfare of the public. We will continue to investigate this issue and make new information available to the public in a timely fashion.”

The findings reflect water quality data from samples collected at 13 sites in the Fayetteville and Wilmington areas between June 19 and July 6. Results show higher concentrations near the point where Chemours’ Fayetteville manufacturing facility was discharging GenX into the Cape Fear River, and much lower concentrations at the public water supply systems near the facility and 70 miles downstream in the Wilmington area.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services released an initial preliminary health risk assessment on June 8 for GenX in the Cape Fear River. Based on continuing analysis of health data and consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services today updated its initial preliminary health assessment for GenX, the unregulated chemical compound recently identified in the lower Cape Fear River.

This updated health goal of 140 parts per trillion is expected to be the most conservative and health protective for non-cancer effects in bottle-fed infants, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, children and adults. This health goal is lower than the health goal in the initial preliminary health assessment.

This change reflects information from new data. Detailed information regarding the initial and revised assessments are posted online here.

Lower second week values reflect reduced exposure to GenX when, at the urging of state, local officials and concerned citizens, Chemours began diverting wastewater containing the contaminant into storage tanks to be shipped out of state for incineration.

DEQ inspected the Chemours site again this week after the company indicated that data it had collected was higher than what it would have expected to see after the June 21 wastewater diversion had started. DEQ inspectors confirmed this week that Chemours stopped the additional discharges of GenX into the river and is collecting them for removal and incineration.

The following data table reflects partial results of concentrations of GenX after the water had been treated by public water systems.

(NC Dept. of Environmental Quality)

Early results from all 13 test sites can be found on the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s GenX website.

Additional water sample testing and analysis are underway with results to be shared once analysis is completed.

The state’s preliminary health goal was developed in consultation with EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ongoing discussions will apply guidance from leading federal researchers of emerging contaminants to help state officials provide the public with the best information available on potential health risks posed by GenX.

Officials have been collecting water samples at multiple locations in the Fayetteville and Wilmington areas each week since June 19 and will continue sampling until at least late July. DEQ officials have extended the state’s sampling regimen from three-to-six weeks to provide a more comprehensive understanding of GenX concentrations in the lower Cape Fear River.