NCDEQ visits New Hanover Co. to share updates on removing PFAS from Cape Fear River

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality paid a visit to New Hanover County on Tuesday afternoon.
State Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Elizabeth Biser speaks in New Hanover County (Photo: Sydney Bouchelle/WWAY)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality paid a visit to New Hanover County on Tuesday afternoon.

Elected officials and residents were given the opportunity to speak with a panel of DEQ staff about getting the PFAS out of the Cape Fear River and other parts of the environment. The meeting kicked off with DEQ talking about their latest efforts in removing the chemical.

“We’re doing additional testing of private wells to see if these chemicals are present in the drinking water wells of residents in this area,” NCDEQ Secretary Elizabeth Biser said.

Biser says if the chemicals are present, people are entitled to alternative drinking water supplies or tools like a reverse osmosis system that helps remove the chemical from the water.

When it comes to treating the ongoing sources of contamination from Chemours, the DEQ is reviewing plans to create a barrier wall around the Chemours site.

“What’s going to happen is there’s going to be a mile-long, 70-foot deep barrier wall that’s put in place to stop the flow of the groundwater,” Biser said. “That groundwater is going to be treated to remove at least 99-percent of the PFAS that’s present. Then it will be discharged into the river after it’s been treated.”

Biser says the largest segment of untreated water that’s getting into the river is from groundwater.

When the DEQ panel concluded their remarks, New Hanover County Commission Vice Chair Deb Hays was called to speak first. When she got to the podium, Hays called on representatives from Wilmington, New Hanover, and Brunswick to demonstrate their “united front” on the issue.

Many said the fight to get GenX out of the water has come a long way, but it also has a long way to go.

“We have to hold Chemours’ feet to the flame. They’ve had some spills, they’ve had some shortfalls, and despite their ad campaign that makes them look like great neighbors, we know that they haven’t always been,” Representative Deb Butler said.

Going forward, Butler says we need to be proactive and not reactive.

“We can’t tackle this compound by compound, we’ve got to have a new system that says if you are going to use public trust resources, you have got to prove you are not going to contaminate our environment,” Butler said. “We can’t be playing catchup all the time and catching polluters after the fact. We need to get ahead of it.”

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