North Carolina Science Advisory Board meets with DEQ about GenX

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - For months, people in the community have been talking about health concerns when it comes to GenX in our drinking water.

Monday, the North Carolina Science Advisory Board met at UNCW with state officials to evaluate how the state Department of Environmental Quality and other state agencies are approaching the GenX issue as well as other emerging chemical compounds.

DEQ Secretary Michael Regan said DEQ wanted the board to give advice about how the agency should deal with those compounds.

However, Jamie Bartrin, the board chairman, said it's hard to give scientific advice about GenX when there's a lack of scientific studies.

The chairman called the issue an "information poor area."

"The Science Advisory Board is just reestablished and it has been given one of those charges which is a nightmare for a scientist," Bartrin said. "We've been asked to comment about issues where there is very very little evidence, very few studies. The challenge for us is, how do we take the evidence that is available and give guidance into the agencies that helps them in making practical useful guidance that's going to assist decision making?"

Regan acknowledged there's not enough information on GenX, calling it and other contaminants a national issue that should have everyone's attention.

"The biggest challenge is the lack of information about some of these chemical compounds, and so we want to get our arms wrapped around it," Regan said. "Leveraging our expertise and the expertise of the federal government and scientists, this board that we've established, we want to spend time combing through the health data and all relevant data to determine what the best course of action is to protect the water quality of North Carolina."

The DEQ and the Department of Health and Human Services presented GenX background information to the board. The DHHS recommended that people with GenX levels of 140 parts per trillion or higher in their well water not use the water for drinking, cooking or baby formula.

The department said it is OK to wash dishes, bathe and do laundry in water with those GenX levels.

Friday, Chemours' CEO said on CNBC that GenX is primarily a permitting issue, but Regan countered that Chemours' focus should be on the community, not its bottom line.

"There is more to this issue than permitting," the DEQ secretary said. "The CEO spoke eloquently about the cash flow for the company and the company's overall health, and we hope that he sends the same signals about the health for the people of North Carolina."

The board also held a public forum at UNCW Monday night to hear the community's concerns about GenX.

Bartrin said the board hopes to have more information and be able to give some advice to families in the area by the time the board meets again in January.

"We'll continue to hold the company accountable," Regan said. "We'll continue to protect the water quality for the people of North Carolina. We'll continue to collect information so we can best regulate these pollutants."

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