NC State researchers present findings of New Hanover Co. tap water study

NC State researchers to present results of New Hanover Co. tap water study

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Researchers from North Carolina State University discussed results from a tap water testing study during a public meeting Tuesday night.

Citizens from 198 New Hanover County homes volunteered to participate in a GenX exposure study, which used tap water, blood, and urine samples to learn more about GenX in the area.

The water samples were all taken from a kitchen faucet, and were collected between Nov. 3 and Dec. 8, 2017.

Lead researcher Jane Hoppin and NC State co-researchers Detlef Knappe and Nadine Kotlarz presented the results, which found the average concentration of GenX in household tap water was 45 parts per trillion.

All homes tested were below the NC Health and Human Services recommended health goal of 140 parts per trillion.

The study tested for 10 fluorochemicals and seven other newly identified compounds, including GenX.

Water samples came from the Cape Fear Public Utility water sources, including the Sweeney Plant and groundwater. Of the 198 samples taken, 194 came from Sweeney Plant water. GenX was not detected in the four groundwater sources.

A question submitted during the meeting asked if GenX concentrations can be traced to specific neighborhoods.

"We haven't done that analysis yet. We're interested in the same question," Kotlarz replied. "We'd like to look at the spacial distribution of the concentrations in the tap water samples across the area that we sampled, but we haven't done that work yet."

Knappe, who first discovered GenX in the Cape Fear River, simultaneously conducted a study on at-home treatment options for GenX. Knappe recommends using an under-the-sink reverse osmosis system.

His findings are listed below:

Under-the-sink reverse osmosis system

  • filtered out all tested compounds, almost entirely
  • costs ~$200 to do it yourself
  • costs ~$1000 to have a system installed

Activated carbon filters 

  • worked to filter most compounds, almost entirely
  • does not filter out 1-4 Dioxane on its own
  • costs ~$100 for under sink system
  • costs ~$20-$50 to install carbon filter in a refrigerator (most have a place for one)

Knappe also said most whole-house filters did not work to filter out fluorochemicals.

One study participant, Nina McLean, has both whole-house and reverse osmosis filtering systems. Her test results showed small amounts of compounds in her drinking water, but she is still concerned for the community.

"What about everybody else? And who's going to help rectify the situation?" McLean said. "It just is sad the older I get the more I see the unfairness of it all, and that big business and money seem to always trump everything else."

Blood samples taken from participants will provide more information. Researchers said they hope to have those results by the end of the summer, and will share them once they have them.

"I'll be very fascinated to see," McLean said. "We put the whole-house system on. It was a carbon filter, so it does nothing for GenX. It did a lot for everything else. We had been eating clean and trying to put healthy things in our bodies so I'll be very interested to see where my blood levels are as compared to people who had not done that, or who had the RO."

Little is known about how long GenX and other related chemicals will remain in the environment, how they are stored in the body, or their toxicity. This study is looking to find answers to those questions.

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