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“How can we get clean water?” New Hanover County Commissioners look for more answers on water contamination

Published: Nov. 3, 2021 at 10:01 PM EDT
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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - Water is something we cannot live without. In New Hanover County, some residents have been dealing with contaminated drinking water for more than four years.

Wednesday, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality told Chemours to look further down the Cape Fear River to investigate the extent of contaminants like PFAS in New Hanover County’s drinking water supply.

“CFPUA has detected Chemours’ PFAS in some of our ground water wells since 2017 and, so, we’ve been sharing these results and results from subsequent testing with DEQ,” said CFPUA Public Information Officer Vaughn Hagerty.

Now, the state DEQ says Chemours is not only responsible for contaminating the water near it’s plant in Bladen County, but also the water supply further downstream into New Hanover County.

County Commissioners say this action is a long time coming.

“One of our goals is to get our county included in the consent order that way we can definitely tie Chemours feet to the fire, so to speak, and provide for our residents,” said commissioner Jonathan Barfield, who also sits on the CFPUA board.

Chemours will sample wells to find contaminated areas downstream. Then, it will provide replacement supplies like water bottles or filters to make sure customers have water that’s both clean and safe to drink.

“I think it’s clear that Chemours has been ignoring its responsibilities to New Hanover residents for just too long and I think DEQ’s announcement today means that Chemours cannot continue to short those responsibilities,” Hagerty said.

Next, commissioners hope to find more answers.

“Applying pressure to DEQ and continually asking the question, ‘How did this happen and how can we get a clean water?’” said commissioner Rob Zapple. He is also a CFPUA board member.

Leaders want Chemours to front the cost for the new filtration system, which is designed to get chemicals like GenX out of the water.

“One thing we would love to see happen is them being responsible for building this carbon activated system that we’re building now which is roughly $46 million,” said Barfield. “If we can get them to cover that and, again, protect our residents here I think it will be a win-win for our community for sure.”

The completion date for the filtration system was delayed earlier this year.

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