Environment

Chemours, maker of GenX chemical, won’t commit to stop discharging into the Cape Fear River

The thousands of people who depend on the Lower Cape Fear River for drinking water received little assurance today that Chemours is taking seriously their concerns about the safety of their water supply.

State, county and coastal officials met with Chemours this morning in New Hanover County. Originally, the meeting was off-limits to the press, but at the urging of county officials, a pool reporter was assigned to cover the proceedings.

Chemours makes GenX, which is used on non-stick pans, at its Fayetteville plant. Since the chemical is unregulated, the company is legally permitted to discharge it as part of its effluent into the Cape Fear. Conventional treatment processes don’t remove it from drinking water.

The EPA calls GenX an “emerging contaminant” because its safety thresholds have yet to be studied and established.

According to WECT, which attended a press conference after the meeting in Wilmington, New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chairman Woody White said that Chemours doesn’t intend to stop discharging GenX into the river. Yesterday, state environmental officials “strongly encouraged” the company to either reduce or eliminate the discharge.

Chemours maintains that its computer modeling shows the company has reduced the level of GenX flowing into the river from 631 parts per trillion to 96 ppt. However, Kathy O’Keefe, Chemours product sustainability director, acknowledged those results were not based on actual sampling. “We recognize it would be better to have actual samples that have been taken; I think that’s what your expectation would be,” O’Keefe was quoted as saying.

DEQ plans not only to review Chermours’s data but also to conduct its own tests. Until those new results are in, the Department of Health and Human Services is basing health risks on the Chemours information. DHHS says exposure to GenX in drinking water at those levels poses a low-risk situation.”

GenX was originally developed by DuPont. It was intended to replace C8, which the company and the EPA phased out after a class-action lawsuit that alleged the chemical caused cancer.

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