NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Robert Bowcock, who works side-by-side with environmental advocate Erin Brockovich and serves on her board's foundation, has a long history with water treatment facilities and operations.
Bowcock founded Integrated Resource Management in California in 1997 after serving as a water utility manager as well as working for various water districts in California. He also worked for the U.S. Army Civil Affairs designing and constructing water distribution systems for the government.
Now Bowcock spends his time providing expert witness work to legal firms regarding water resource and management issues. Bowcock said city and county leaders from New Hanover County and Wilmington have been speaking with him over the last few weeks asking for advice on GenX, an unregulated chemical found in the Cape Fear River.
Bowcock took part in the Cape Fear River Community forum Wednesday night via Skype.
"This is an extended chemical spill," said Bowcock Wednesday by phone from his office in California. "Chemours should go to jail for this. They knew about it and still made the decision to discharge it."
While many have said reverse osmosis is the only way to remove the chemical from the water, Bowcock says he knows another method that could remove GenX when the water is treated at CFPUA's plant.
"Contrary to what people have been talking about, this doesn't require reverse osmosis to get out," said Bowcock. He says CFPUA has a filter known as Bio-Gac, which, according to Bowcock, uses granular activated carbon to remove dissolved organics from drinking water.
Bowcock says CFPUA's facility is set up to simply change the filter to an activated Bituminous Coal filter, which would remove Gen-x from the systems.
"It would literally take no time to change these filters," said Bowcock. "But, it will take months to come out of the river, even longer to come out of the pipes, distribution center or your houses, where GenX is built up in sledge in your water heaters and every single appliance you own."
Bowcock plans to come to Wilmington next week to continue to investigate and seek answers from officials.
"I'd like to get into Wilmington, roll up my sleeves and start helping," Bowcock said. "CFPUA is the front line victim in all this, then it trickles down to the community, I don't care if it's ice cream in the water, it doesn't belong in your water."
A CFPUA spokesperson said they are working with an engineering firm, Black & Veatch, to determine available options to remove the chemical from the water. The spokesperson now says Bowcock's suggestion of changing out the filter is one of the options being looked at by CFPUA leaders.