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Secret Chemours spill causes spike in GenX levels at water treatment plant

[1]

An aerial view of the Bladen Bluffs Water Treatment Plant in Leland (Photo: Lower Cape Fear River Authority)

Levels of GenX at the Bladen Bluffs water treatment plant [2] in Brunswick County were nearly double the state’s provisional health goal after an unreported chemical spill occurred upstream at the Chemours plant.

The NC Department of Environmental Quality announced the finding today [3].

On Oct. 9, three days after the accident at the Fayetteville Works plant, levels of GenX in treated water reached 253 parts per trillion at Bladen Bluffs, in Leland. The provisional health goal for drinking water is 140 ppt. Before the spill, Bladen Bluffs had consistently reported no detection of GenX in finished water.  [4]The treatment plant is part of the Lower Cape Fear River Authority, while provides wholesale regional raw water supply services to local governments and industry in Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover, and Pender Counties.

Chemours did not report the spill to DEQ, as legally required, until early November, after routine sampling results revealed GenX levels of 619 ppt at one of the plant’s discharge points. On Nov. 16, DEQ cited Chemours and then moved to revoke the company’s permit to discharge process wastewater because of the company’s permit violations and its failure to report the Oct. 6 spill.

Meanwhile, another 34 households are being supplied with bottled water by Chemours after private drinking water wells tested above the health goal for GenX. These wells are located near the company’s Fayetteville Works facility. The recent additions bring the total number of affected households to 85. Forty-eight more wells also contain GenX but at levels below the 140 ppt benchmark set by the NC Department of Health and Human Services.

On Nov. 20, DEQ officials met with representatives from Bladen and Cumberland counties and discussed alternative water solutions. Long-term replacement options including digging deeper wells, installing water filters on homes or running water lines to residents whose wells tested above the state’s provisional drinking water health goal. Chemours presumably would have to pay for those upgrades.