Politicians, researchers, water quality stakeholders meet to discuss GenX, other compounds

Politicians, researchers, water quality stakeholders meet to discuss GenX, other compounds
(Source: WECT)
(Source: WECT)
(Source: WECT)
(Source: WECT)

RALEIGH, NC (WECT) - The House Select Committee on North Carolina River Quality met Thursday to discuss the ongoing investigation into pollution in the Cape Fear River.

GenX and other unregulated contaminants were the primary focus, specifically the human health effects, filtration testing, and possible air emissions.

Other topics addressed include Chemours Fayetteville Works' regulatory history, ongoing research of other organofluorine compounds, and a broader conversation of government regulation of emerging compounds.

"The safety of the drinking water of the citizens of North Carolina is something that everyone is passionately and profoundly concerned with," House Select Committee James William Dixon said. "And I, for one, am not going to sit idly and watch some political ping pong ball bounce from one side of the table that it is a funding issue."

Zack Moore, state epidemiologist with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, gave a presentation about the health effects of GenX and other unregulated compounds. He said studies of lab animals provide the primary source of knowledge about the health effects of GenX.

At high enough doses, GenX has been associated with cancers of the liver, pancreas, and testes, as well as other non-cancer health effects in lab animals, Moore said.

Studies of chemicals created by companies submitted to the EPA can be kept private as confidential business information, according to Moore, who said there is not enough research information available to establish a health goal for emerging compounds such as Nafion byproducts 1 and 2.

Health goals for compounds like GenX are reached using animal studies, population level studies, and lab studies, according to Moore. Experts at DHHS use the most vulnerable population -- bottle-fed infants, who consume the most water for body weight of any age -- to establish health goals.

There were about four pounds of GenX released into the air per year by Chemours between 2013 and 2016, said Sheila Holman with the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality. This information was from Chemours, and DEQ has not conducted any air quality studies of GenX on its own.

The DEQ is exploring atmospheric GenX as one explanation for why the compound was found in water sources further from the plant.

"We are trying to understand, how did GenX reach those private drinking water wells?" Holman said, "and atmospheric deposition is one likely theory."

Frank Styers, chief operations officer with the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA), said testing of several different filter technologies is underway at the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant. Water experts with CFPUA want to make sure filtration technologies like granular activated carbon filters and ion exchange resin filtration aren't just filtering GenX, but also any emerging compounds as well.

CFPUA anticipates the total cost in the short term of water treatment evaluation, UNCW support, ASR remediation, and ongoing GenX monitoring will reach $1,075,000.

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