Panel discusses GenX one year later

Panel discusses GenX one year later (Photo: Andrew James/WWAY)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) – A year ago the people of the Cape Fear were exposed to the truth many had feared in a long time. The water out of the Cape Fear River was, and is, contaminated.

GenX as well as many other chemical compounds was discovered and publicized to neighbors in the several counties that really on drinking water supplied through the Cape Fear River. Since that discovery, a lot has happened, but the key question of concern has been left unanswered.

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A panel of scientists, activists, as well as regulators came together at Cape Fear Community College to talk about where the state has come and where it is going in terms of understanding GenX and other PFOAS.

“At that time we did not have chemical standards for these. Now we do,” said Dr. Jane Hoppin before a group taking part in the panel discussion hosted by the Cape Fear chapter of Surf Rider foundation.

Dr. Hoppin and her team are leading the GenX Exposure Study at NC State University. They recently released information of how much GenX remained in the taps of 200 Wilmington homes.

She says they are actively researching now the amounts that remain in people who consume the contaminated water.

“85 percent of that water is sourced from the Cape Fear River,” said Cape Fear Public Utility Authority executive director Jim Flechtner. “It’s important that we continue to talk about it and understand it.”

What still is not understood is the impacts the compounds have in those who consume it. Dr. Jamie DeWitt who works at the Dewitt Laboratory at ECU looks at toxicology of these compounds. She found that higher volumes of Genx and PFOAS harmed mice subjects. She made clear the amounts were much larger than the 140 parts per trillion health goal issued by NCDEQ a month after the compound’s discovery.

“The lesson I learned that probably that most troubling is the federal framework for setting drinking water standards is woefully inadequate,” said Dr. DeWitt.

“What happened was a complete failure of the system we had to make sure that does not happen,” said Dr. Larry Cahoon who serves as a Marine Biologist for UNCW.

The list is long for what has taken place in the past year in reference to GenX. A health goal was set, state regulators penalized Chemours who was uncovered to be the source of discharge into the river, private citizens have sued the company, local utilities have sued the company, and the state has put forth thousands of dollars for university’s and agencies to look into the chemical.

Flechtner said recently a judge granted the CFPUA attorney’s to access the Chemours Fayetteville Plant to take samples.

Panelists in all agreed they’ve come a long way in knowing more about the chemicals. Cahoon noted in a way it opened a new door of discrepencies he sees in the EPA.

“Byproducts are not tested,” said Cahoon referring to the regulations under federal toxin testing, “We found chemicals like PFMOAA, there is absolutely no testing done on that.”

Many attended the discussion in hopes for an answer to that lingering question, does GenX harm the public who drink it and if so how can we individually protect ourselves? That question in the short term, was solved by the man who discovered the chemicl, Dr. Detlef Knappe. His resarch paired with Dr. Hoppin’s uncovered the filtration processes that can completely filter out PFOAS. He discovered early filtration in activated carbon filters and continuous filtration in reverse osmosis filters.

However, panelists all agreed with Dana Sargent of Cape Fear River Watch in her statement.

“We shouldn’t have to seek these types of filters for our home water to begin with.”

Results from Hoppin’s study is anticipated to be released by the end of the summer.