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Preliminary fish tissue, lake results show presence of GenX, other fluorinated compounds

Jimmy Dew and his family own the 14-acre Marshwood Lake, just northeast of the Chemours plant. He spoke earlier this year at a public information session in Bladen County. (File photo: Lisa Sorg)

Surface water, sediment and three species of fish from a private lake near the Chemours plant tested positive for several perfluorinated compounds, state environmental officials told the Science Advisory Board today.

Marshwood Lake, which is owned by the Dew family, lies seven-tenths of a mile northeast of the Chemours plant near the Bladen-Cumberland county line.

NC Department of Environmental Quality took the samples in March and April, targeting 33 known perfluorinated compounds, including GenX. Only one of three fish species sampled tested positive for GenX.

  • Redear sunfish, .00027 parts per million (270 parts per trillion) for GenX and an estimated concentration of .00049 ppm (49 parts per trillion) of PFOS, which has been phased out.
  • Two largemouth bass did not contain detectable amounts of GenX, but they did have five other perfluorinated compounds, including PFOS.
  • One blue catfish sample tested positive for four compounds, of the longer-carbon chain variety. Scientists theorize that compounds with more carbon molecules — longer carbon chains — could be more harmful than their shorter-chain counterparts. However, more research is needed, including studies on the cumulative effects of many compounds on human health.

Because the results are preliminary and the sample size small, the data cannot be used to issue a fish consumption advisory, said Sandy Mort, DEQ environmental toxicologist. Sampling in the fall could show different results because the fish will have had time to grow.

The state also released other sampling results for GenX:

  • Sediment, 1,800 parts per trillion;
  • Lake water samples, 968 ppt;
  • A natural spring that feeds the lake, 1,160 ppt.

Both water sources contained 16 different perfluorinated compounds, including a Nafion byproduct and so-called legacy compounds, such as PFOS and PFOA, which have been phased out.

The source of the contamination is likely air emissions and groundwater discharges from the Chemours plant. The compounds are leaving the stacks at the facility and, when they mix with water, can transform into GenX. In turn, GenX contaminates the soil, groundwater and surface water.GenX also leaches from soil and volatilizes — becomes vapor — from water.

The EPA is analyzing studies on rats and mice conducted by Chemours and is expected to issue health goals for GenX by late summer. Early analyses show that chronic exposure to GenX and fluorinated compounds can harm the kidneys and liver, and suppress the immune system, They can also cause developmental and reproductive problems, as well as decrease red blood cell counts.

 

 

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