Chemical found at level 113 times greater than GenX in Cape Fear River

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - We've been reporting for over a month about concerning levels of GenX in the Cape Fear River. We are now getting a clearer picture of the quantity of similar chemicals also found in the river, that researchers believe are of potentially greater concern.

The following chart came from a study conducted by several researchers from the EPA, UNC Charlotte, NC State and the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, among others. It was published in the Journal of Environmental Science & Technology in November 2016, although research for this study was conducted as early as 2013.

The red sections of the bar graph above indicate peak areas of GenX found in the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority's water treatment plant during the course of this study. As you can see, the other chemicals which researchers say are of potential concern to human health were found at far greater levels than GenX.

The EPA has yet to publish “safe levels” for GenX, however, state officials say that “based on available published research, the levels of GenX that were detected in the Cape Fear River in 2013-14 would have posed a minimal health risk.” 

While little is known about the six other PFECAs structurally similar to GenX, several exhibited peak areas two to 113 times greater than GenX, which could translate to higher concentrations. Researchers were unable to determine actual concentrations for those chemicals due to no authentic chemical standard.

We've asked the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) if their ongoing water testing would show levels for the six other PFECAs found in our river in addition to GenX. They were not immediately able to answer that question but said they would try to get an answer for us.

However, Brunswick County indicated in a press release on July 11 that DEQ tested to determine the levels of GenX and other similar PFECAs and other PFAs in the Cape Fear River.

Cape Fear Public Utility Authority is not currently testing for PFECAs other than GenX.

"GenX is obviously one that caught people's attention, and we want to make sure that we have that information for them.  I want to partner with UNCW to document what else might be in the river and what else we need to know about, but that is a work we will undertake over the next few months," CFPUA Executive Director Jim Flechtner told WECT on Wednesday.

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