The Cape Fear Surfrider Foundation hosted a panel discussion Thursday to mark the one-year anniversary of the discovery of GenX in the Cape Fear River.
Dozens of community members gathered to ask a team of experts questions about the potential effects of GenX and what is being done to learn more about the chemical.
“The realization and the wake-up call for the community is huge and moving on to the realization that we can’t count on our government to protect our health if they continue on this path of basically coddling these corporations,” said Dana Sargent with Cape Fear River Watch.
The Chemours Company, which discharged GenX into the Cape Fear River, will hold its first public meeting Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Faith Tabernacle Christian Center in St. Pauls.
Panelists at Thursday's meeting included Sargent, Dr. Jane Hoppin, Jim Flechtner with the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, Dr. Larry Cahoon, Dr. Jamie DeWitt, and Dr. Susanne Brander.
They explained that while more is known now than a year ago, science and research do take time, which is why they still do not know a lot.
All at the meeting stressed the need to hold Chemours fiscally responsible for filtering GenX out of the water.
Experts also talked about the systemic failure of federal regulatory agencies, like the Environmental Protection Agency, to prevent this from happening.
Cahoon, a UNCW professor, echoed those sentiments, saying it was a "complete failure of the system we have for making sure that doesn’t happen.”
Flechtner, CFPUA's executive director, said stronger federal regulation is a must for ensuring this does not continue.
“The federal framework, not talking about the state here, is woefully inadequate,” Flechtner said.
CFPUA has chosen to install granular activated carbon solutions at the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant. Those filters should remove GenX and all other harmful chemicals on the radar. Many in attendance Thursday called for Chemours to pay for the $46 million filtration system.
"I don't think the consumers should pay for that," Cahoon said. "I think Chemours should pay for that because it's their stuff in our water and I want to make that very clear. We own that river. That is our water. It does not belong to them. It does not belong to the government. It belongs to the people of North Carolina and if you're going to put that kind of stuff in the water, you're going to pay for that, not us."
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