October 25, 2017/Press

Editorial Boards Slam NC GOP for Refusing to Take Action as GenX Grows

RALEIGH – Editorial Boards again are asking the General Assembly to put politics aside and fully fund the state’s request to help combat GenX after the compound was recently found in Cumberland and Bladen counties. Republicans in the General Assembly, however, would rather score political points and undermine Governor Cooper than put forward a real solution. Republicans slashed DEQ and DHHS budgets and staff long before GenX. They offered a faux “solution” that gave no money to statewide regulators. And now, as the problem grows, they simply refuse to help NC citizens.

Star News: Maybe public outrage can make legislature act on water safety

“When Gov. Roy Cooper asked for an extra $2.6 million — out of a $23 billion budget — to shore up the state’s understaffed water-quality agency, the Honorables more or less told him to get stuffed … We hope the money will help in some way with GenX, but it’s far too little and does nothing for the folks in Cumberland and Bladen counties, where much more than GenX is turning up in the water. The Cape Fear River, meanwhile, is one big chemical-laden mess.”

Fayetteville Observer: GenX threat needs more extensive response

“And the General Assembly needs to recognize the scope of this problem and give state regulators the funding they need to get a handle on the extent of the problem in Cumberland and Bladen counties, as well as downstream on the Cape Fear. That shouldn’t have to wait until lawmakers return to Raleigh in January.”

Star News: Maybe public outrage can make legislature act on water safety
By the Editorial Board
October 25, 2017

The state’s water quality problem isn’t going away; it’s only growing.

Another lawsuit against Chemours and DuPont was filed Monday — by a Brunswick County woman with high levels of GenX in her water heater. The chemical is being found in more private wells near the Fayetteville Works industrial site, and the state is testing water at three Cumberland County schools.

After the state found elevated levels of GenX in the well water of a home near Chemours, the owner paid a lab $800 for further analysis. The tests found about 15 “emerging contaminants.”

Meanwhile, we are hearing from people who recently moved here and found their first big decision was whether or not to drink the water.

That’s not good, folks.

But don’t fret — the General Assembly is all over it. When Gov. Roy Cooper asked for an extra $2.6 million — out of a $23 billion budget — to shore up the state’s understaffed water-quality agency, the Honorables more or less told him to get stuffed.

Instead, they gave $185,000 to the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, $250,000 to UNCW, and then washed their hands of the problem — maybe with bottled water.

We hope the money will help in some way with GenX, but it’s far too little and does nothing for the folks in Cumberland and Bladen counties, where much more than GenX is turning up in the water. The Cape Fear River, meanwhile, is one big chemical-laden mess.

“GenX is only a small fraction of the total level of fluorochemicals that we have found in the river, and the other levels are some times 50 to 100 times higher,” said N.C. State’s Detlef Knappe, an expert on chemical contaminants.

In the Greensboro area, a compound called 1,4 dioxane — used in commercial solvents — is being discharged into the Cape Fear River watershed. Knappe found levels 100 times higher than what the EPA considers safe.

“I think we … have to ask harder questions when we issue permits for industrial discharges,” Knappe told WRAL-TV in July. “If we know we’re making byproducts and we don’t know what they are, then it’s pretty irresponsible to just discharge them into a river …”

But that’s the situation we find ourselves in. And the General Assembly’s leadership has shown no sense of urgency in responding.

The people of North Carolina deserve better. But we know Berger/Moore & Co. are not going to listen to Gov. Cooper or leaders in his administration.

It looks like residents will have to demand action. We’d suggest they do so — and with a strong dose of outrage.

Fayetteville Observer: GenX threat needs more extensive response
By the Editorial Board
October 22, 2017

Day by day, the GenX story grows more worrisome. And the apparent threat grows larger.

So far this month, the state has expanded its testing zone to a mile around the Chemours plant on the Cumberland-Bladen County line. The chemical used in producing Teflon has now been found in numerous private wells around the plant. Chemours, a DuPont spinoff, is providing bottled drinking water to residents whose wells were affected. The company last summer acknowledged that it has long dumped effluent containing GenX into the Cape Fear River, but now it’s clear that it has also leaked from the plant into the aquifer beneath the plant. It’s still unclear how far it has spread.

And the state is also testing the water at three Cumberland County schools as well as a ball field near the plant. State regulators have learned that at other locations, GenX was found to have spread through the air as well as in water. EPA researchers found it more than 20 miles from a Chemours plant in West Virginia.

But the most disturbing news came last week when homeowner Mike Watters, who lives a mile from the Chemours plant, wasn’t satisfied with the tests the state ran on his well water. The state did find elevated levels of GenX in his well, but Watters wondered if there could be more things getting into the aquifer from the plant. So he paid a private laboratory $800 to more thoroughly analyze his water supply. The tests found about 15 compounds in his water, little-examined chemicals related to manufacturing processes at Chemours. Regulators refer to them as “emerging contaminants.” They haven’t been tested for their effects on human health, but then, neither has GenX. But researchers do know that GenX causes cancer in laboratory animals.

Some of those same chemicals have been found in the Cape Fear River as well. Testing has also found traces of C8, the chemical that GenX replaced, in some water samples, including from Watters’ well. C8 is a suspected carcinogen. It would come as no surprise if all of the compounds in the C8 and GenX family posed health problems.

Now while all this testing is going on, where are our lawmakers? They traveled to Raleigh to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of a measure that gave about $400,000 in funding to Wilmington-area GenX researchers, but denied his request for $2.6 million to beef up staff at the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Health and Human Services, the two state agencies that are responsible to responding to the Chemours mess.

And now it appears that the environmental threat to communities around the plant may be just as large, and perhaps even larger.

Based on what was found in Mile Watters’ well, it’s clear that the state needs to expand its testing to much more than a mile around the plant, and it needs to test for more than GenX and C8. Homeowners shouldn’t need to spend $800 out of their own pockets (nor the $300 that Cumberland County is charging to test for GenX) to find out what’s in their water.

And the General Assembly needs to recognize the scope of this problem and give state regulators the funding they need to get a handle on the extent of the problem in Cumberland and Bladen counties, as well as downstream on the Cape Fear. That shouldn’t have to wait until lawmakers return to Raleigh in January. The state may have a significant environmental emergency on its hands and it needs to respond with the kinds of resources that will fully protect the affected citizenry.

With every month that has passed since the discovery of GenX in the river, the story — and the threat to human health and safety — has grown. Matters like this should be above political squabbling, and if our legislative leadership can’t understand that, then maybe it’s time for some retirement parties.

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