Some members of the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority board feel the agency did not act fast enough informing the public about potentially hazardous chemicals in the water.
The board met Monday to get a status update about GenX and other chemicals in the Cape Fear River, and in the CFPUA finished water supply. They discussed the plan for removing chemicals in the water, and getting out in front of a problem like this in the future, rather than reacting to it after it comes out in media reports.
"Somebody exercised extreme lack of good judgment in not responding quicker, and that has helped to fuel this fire, and create the distrust that I think we have in the community now,” New Hanover County Commissioner Pat Kusek said to her fellow members of the CFPUA board on Monday. “We've just got to do something really proactive to get out in front of it and fix [it]."
For the last two weeks, there has been non-stop talk about GenX, and other chemicals like 1,4-dioxane in our water that the EPA says likely cause cancer. But the discussion didn’t start until the Wilmington Star News broke the story about GenX in the water supply.
Kusek says the CFPUA should have been out in front of this problem rather than reacting to a panicked public looking for answers. While there are still a lot of questions scientists don’t yet have answers for about just how harmful these chemicals are to humans, Kusek said the agency's failure to get what information they did have out to the public sooner created a sense of distrust in the community.
"We could have communicated it better," Kusek explained. "We need [policies for] who responds to the media, a standard of time for responding to media requests, how you share that information with the public. Because if we're not telling you, then you assume we're hiding something."
Kusek wants the CFPUA to develop written media policies and procedures as well as policies on when the board is notified of potential hazards in the water.
“Better to say something than to say nothing at all,” Kusek said of allowing the board and the public to at least be educated about the potential for risk in drinking the tap water. She said it’s a balancing act to not create panic unnecessarily, but also not leave people in the dark.
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