Reverse osmosis plant could prevent tainted water

Reverse osmosis plant could prevent tainted water
CFPUA provided a breakdown of the nearly $2 million in costs associated with GenX. (Source: WECT)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) - H2GO executive director Bob Walker says construction of a controversial plant would prevent an unregulated chemical known as GenX from appearing in his customers' water supply.

Walker says a planned reverse osmosis plant would provide a water supply independent from the Cape Fear River.

"If we had the reverse osmosis plant, we are pulling source water from deep-water aquifers," Walker said. "We don't have the vulnerability from the deep well groundwater supplies that we have with the Cape Fear River supplies."

A study published in the StarNews this week indicated the presence of GenX in the raw water supply for Cape Fear Public Utility Authority.

H2GO gets its water from the same source as CFPUA. Because of that, Walker said, they assume GenX is in their customer's water supply.

"Moving away from surface water supplies to groundwater supplies, deep groundwater supplies that are in confined aquifers, drives the point home that, yeah, this is the correct thing to do and it's not going to be just for us you are going to see a number of coastal communities go to reverse osmosis just because of this reason," Walker explained.

Few studies discuss effects of exposure to GenX, although industry officials say a greater understanding of that is needed.

"This is the kind of thing that should not be allowed," Lawrence Cahoon, a biology and marine biology professor at UNCW, said. "They are using us as guinea pigs and dumping an untested, not a thoroughly tested compound into our drinking water knowing full well it can't be taken out by these treatment processes."

The Chemours Company responded to WECT's request for comment with the following statement:

"Chemours is aware of the research reports on the Cape Fear River Watershed sampling, done between 2012 and December 2013," the statement reads. "Additional water emissions abatement technology was completed and added to our Fayetteville operations site in November, 2013. Our polymerization processing aid, sometimes referred to as GenX, has been well characterized and undergone extensive safety evaluations. In addition, regulatory agencies required substantial data to be developed on the alternative chemistries that have been introduced. This data shows that the polymerization processing aid, offers a favorable toxicological profile and very rapid bioelimination, combined with a manufacturing control system to minimize the potential for environmental releases and resulting exposures. Chemours continues to work collaboratively with all state and federal regulatory agencies, and we are committed to reducing our environmental footprint and minimizing any potential risks to our employees and the communities in which we operate."

In a statement released Friday afternoon, New Hanover County said it will meet with Chemours next week to get a better understanding of the situation.

Additionally, the county said it has asked the NC Department of Environmental Equality (NCDEQ) to take the lead on researching the issue to learn the extent and potential effects of GenX as soon as possible.

Click here to read the county's letter to NCDEQ.

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