WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — On June 7th, the Starnews broke the story about GenX in the Cape Fear River. As the region learned about this compound from the Chemours chemical plant near Fayetteville in the drinking water supply, citizens wanted answers.
“If we’re drinking it, and we’re showering with it, we’re brushing our teeth with it, we’re putting it in our food. It’s definitely a concern,” Ashley Buckner, a concerned citizen, said.
“I was really unsettled when I first heard about it. And the more research I did, the more scared I got about it,” Audra Heins, a concerned citizen, said.
Scientists were concerned too. A UNCW professor even said he was avoiding the water.
“I drink tequila straight but I won’t drink the tap water anymore,” Larry Cahoon, said.
Local and state leaders demanded action from state and federal regulators.
“Our job is to speak for the hundreds of thousands of citizens in this region. To enforce the people above us in the political food chain if you will, to do their job,” Woody White, New Hanover County commissioner, said.
“I would like to see a thorough investigation from DEQ. I would like to know how this stuff got into the water based on the fact that the GenX product that they were making clearly states do not put any GenX into the Cape Fear Rive,” Bill Saffo, Wilmington mayor, said.
“It’s a place where we have to come together. To make sure the water’s protected for the people of Wilmington and across North Carolina,” Gov. Roy Cooper, said.
Several forums were held to inform concerned citizens. By August, the controversy drew even Erin Brockovich to town.
“There’s a lot of missing data still and conclusions on this chemical. I told you, I had that argument with the scientist. I don’t have the data. So maybe it can harm you. But you don’t have the data so you can’t tell me that it doesn’t harm you,” Brockovich said.
Chemours agreed to pay for tests which have shown various levels of GenX around the region. The company also faces regulatory action from the state for allegations of an unreported spill, while promising to keep GenX out of the river. But as 2017 ends, there are still many questions unanswered, and a long way to go in the fight to protect the region’s water supply.
While GenX has dominated the news, along the way, other potential toxins were found in the water. It is still unclear what affects any of them will have on consumers.