Tests show GenX still a concern in water at NC elementary school

Tests show GenX still a concern in water at NC elementary school
(Source: Jack Bailey)

HOPE MILLS, N.C. (WNCN) – New tests show the water at a Cumberland County school is still not safe to drink.

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality said the chemicals found in the water are coming from the nearby Chemours plant.

The school district says Gray’s Creek Elementary has been using bottled water as a precaution for drinking and food preparation since the issue first came to light in 2017.

“I pray and hope that they can find a solution to this because this is very scary,” said Ann Davis.

Ann Davis’ daughter goes to school at Gray’s Creek. She gives her daughter water to take to school.

“There were times when they (the school) would run out and there’s no water, so I didn’t like that,” Davis said.

Cumberland County Schools Associate Superintendent Lindsay Whitley said the district has been paying for the bottled water since 2017.

But now, after the latest chemicals detected in the water, Chemours will be responsible for a permanent fix within six months.

The district sent letters to parents this week informing them about the latest water test.

“The safety of students and staff is our top priority so we are excited about being able to work toward a solution with the company and be able to provide a permanent water filtration solution at Gray’s Creek Elementary School,” Whitley said.

Davis said she has also dealt with chemicals from the plant ending up in the water at her home.

“Number one, it’s scary. Number two, you pray and make sure that nothing is wrong with you because you’ve been drinking the water not knowing that something was wrong. And three, you have a lot of anger,” Davis said.

The NCDEQ has also been running water tests near the Chemour’s plant. It said not much is currently known about what impact the chemicals found in the water can have on humans.

Chemours signed a consent order this year, which leaves the company responsible to fix the water at the school.

“The consent order, we feel, is really doing its job in that this data is coming in. We are evaluating drinking water sources throughout the Gray’s Creek community and beyond. And in this instance, unfortunately, there were additional compounds that were discovered, but the good news is the kids have remained on bottled water and there will be a plan going forward that the school doesn’t have to stay on bottled water,” said Michael Scott with NCDEQ.

Chemours released this statement about the incident:

Fulfilling a request from Cumberland County Schools, representatives of Chemours recently resampled wells at both Gray’s Creek Elementary School and Alderman Road Elementary School for GenX and several other fluorinated compounds. Alderman Road Elementary School well sampling was non-detect for GenX or other fluorinated compounds (listed in Attachment C of the Consent Order agreement with North Carolina and Cape Fear River Watch). Gray’s Creek Elementary School well sampling detected GenX at a very low 6 parts per trillion (ppt) for GenX, and a combined 53 ppt for all other fluorinated compounds sampled. Both numbers were below levels specified in the Consent Order agreement with the state of North Carolina and Cape Fear River Watch. However, two of the fluorinated compounds did exceed the 10 ppt Consent Order agreement threshold established for individual constituents: PMPA compound (34 ppt) and PFO2HxA (13 ppt). Chemours is working with Cumberland County Schools and NCDEQ to quickly determine the most effective and feasible replacement drinking water system for Gray’s Creek Elementary School. Bottled water is already being provided to students and faculty, and will continue until a permanent replacement system is installed.

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