WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Staff with the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality started sampling water for GenX Monday in the Cape Fear River near the Chemours plant, and Thursday they sampled a dozen other sites in the Lower Cape Fear region.
"Our objective with the sampling is to determine the current concentration of GenX in the lower Cape Fear and to better characterize the health risks associating with the concentrations," NCDEQ spokesman Jamie Kritzer said. "Getting these samples will help guide our decisions for the next steps we need to take."
Two representatives armed with several testing bottles were at CFPUA's Sweeney Plant Thursday morning. It took the representatives less than one minute to collect the treated water from the finishing facility.
DEQ staff will sample a total of 13 locations this week and will continue collecting samples for analysis in the same locations for the next three weeks.
Those locations include:
- Lower Cape Fear Water and Sewer Authority’s intake
- International Paper intake
- International Paper finished water
- Cape Fear Public Utility Authority’s finished water
- Pender County public utility’s finished water
- Brunswick County public utility’s finished water
- Cape Fear Public Utility’s Aquifer Storage and Recovery well
- Wrightsville Beach water supply well.
"After we get the results we are sending some of them to a lab in Colorado that can detect GenX in low concentrations," Kritzer said. "The other samples we are taking to a research lab in Raleigh that the Environment Protection Agency has agreed to let us use for this investigation. We here at the NCDEQ are also conducting our own independent investigation as well."
The samples that are collected this week should reflect GenX concentrations before Chemours committed to stopping the discharge of the unregulated chemical Tuesday.
"The samples we did in the Fayetteville region on Monday was prior to the company shutting down the discharge of GenX," Kritzer explained. "The water parcels that we will be collecting Thursday are in essence the same type of water parcels and will be the same we saw on Monday because it takes that long for the water to flow the 70 miles downstream from Fayetteville to the Wilmington intake areas."
Kritzer says they expect the GenX levels to drop over the next two weeks of sampling.
After meeting with DEQ staff last week, Chemours agreed to bear all costs for the water collection and testing. The state believes the completed results will be back from the laboratory in Colorado within four weeks from when the samples are received.
"Our No. 1 goal is to get this information analyzed and make sure it is accurate and our interpretations are accurate," Kritzer said. "Then we can provide that information to the public in a manner that is easily understood and as an expeditious manner possible."
From there, Kritzer says it will take time to determine how this unregulated chemical compound could affect the water we all consume.
"The amount of the GenX or the concentration in other words of the GenX will determine our next steps. We will use that and compare that to health risks levels that are being established for this compound in water," Kritzer said.
Testing will continue for the next two weeks at all 13 locations. Kritzer says they may expand to additional locations if they need more information.
The DEQ also has a website devoted to the GenX investigation where the agency will update water testing results as they become available.