One year after GenX revelation, some fears still remain

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — June 7, 2017. That’s when the StarNews broke a story about the toxin GenX in the Cape Fear River.

“We collectively, as a community, have accomplished a lot in the last year. A lot of people have gotten together to bring about a lot of change in a short amount of time,” CFPUA executive director Jim Flechtner said.

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Researchers linked GenX to the Chemours plant near Fayetteville. Local utility companies like CFPUA and H2Go had to deal with the revelation.

Flechtner says his agency has had to do more than what is normally expected of them.

“Our role as a utility typically is not to get out and do research into what’s in the environment or to be taking legal action against polluters, but in this case, the problem was so severe we had to do that on behalf of our customers,” Flechtner said.

Early reactions to the news of GenX were strong. UNCW biologist Larry Cahoon said last summer he would rather drink tequila than the local tap water.

Dr. Cahoon says he now feels comfortable drinking the water again, but there’s more work to be done.

“I’m still a little nervous, partly because I’m not sure we’ve been leveled with by Chemours,” Dr. Cahoon said. “I’m not sure we know everything that’s in the water. And I’m not all that impressed with the state’s response.”

A common theme from both Dr. Cahoon and Flechtner is the need for more regulation.

“I hope that we can restore a proper approach to regulating these kinds of problems that’s honest, that is protective of the public health as the top priority,” Dr. Cahoon said.

Dr. Cahoon said public utilities in the area like CFPUA were caught in a very difficult situation. He says he was impressed with their response to the GenX contamination.