Environment

Study finds GenX, other fluorinated compounds still in tap water; NC State scientists to discuss results tomorrow

But hey, you get a free spatula: Teflon and other non-stick surfaces are made using fluorinated compounds, which can harm human health and the environment. (Photo of advertisement: Creative Commons)

GenX and other fluorinated chemicals have been found in most tap water samples collected from 198 homes served by the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, according to results from a study conducted in New Hanover County late last year by NC State scientists. 

Scientists from the university’s Center for Human Health and the Environment are scheduled to discuss the results during a public forum tomorrow at the Fisher Student Center at UNC Wilmington. Doors open at 6 p.m.

None of the samples exceeded the state’s health advisory goal of 140 parts per trillion for GenX in drinking water. There is no EPA regulatory standard for GenX.

However, concentrations of three of the 17 compounds  — Nafion Byproduct 2, PFMOAA and PFOHxA — are unknown because scientists didn’t have the tools to measure them at the time of the analysis. The EPA is still working on test standards for these compounds. 

The total concentrations of all compounds is also important. For PFOS and PFOA, the EPA has set a health advisory goal of 70 parts per trillion combined in drinking water. 

Scientists collected tap water from each home’s kitchen faucet and tested the sample for 17 fluorochemicals, including GenX, from Nov. 3 to Dec. 8, 2017. Since the water came directly from the homes’ faucets, it had been treated by the Cape Fear Public Utility’s Sweeney plant.

None of the samples from four homes served by the utility’s groundwater plant had detectable levels of GenX.

Scientists shared the results with the utility. Blood and urine results are still being analyzed.

Documents included in each home’s results emphasized that changes in concentration are expected because of varying levels of GenX entering the treatment plant over time. Several factors contribute to that variation. For example, Chemours accidentally discharged GenX from its Fayetteville Works plant several times after the company ostensibly stopped releasing the chemical. 

GenX has also been found in sediment in the Cape Fear River, which, when stirred up by wind, rain or boats, can release the chemical into the water. GenX has also been detected in rainwater not only near the Chemours facility but also at a weather station in Wilmington.

DEQ has issued several notices of violation to Chemours for these illegal discharges, including air emissions; state regulators and the attorney general’s office have also asked a Bladen County Superior Court judge for a permanent injunction to prohibit the company for discharging or emitting GenX into the environment in any form. 

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