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Money coming to help clean PFAs out of Cape Fear River

EPA toxicity assessment finds GenX is more harmful than previously thought
EPA toxicity assessment finds GenX is more harmful than previously thought
Published: Dec. 8, 2021 at 11:50 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo and State Representative Deb Butler met with the media Tuesday morning to discuss the $10 billion dollars federal lawmakers recently approved to clean up PFAs (Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances) in our drinking water.

The funding is part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that passed in November. This has been a major issue along the Cape Fear River since 2017, when scientists discovered concerning levels of GenX in the drinking water supply for 300,000 people. GenX is a type of PFA toxin also known as a “forever chemical” because of how long it stays in a person’s body once they’ve been exposed to it.

“The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s funding of $10 billion in grants nationwide, which is the single largest investment in water that the federal government has ever made, to address emerging contaminants like PFAS, is critically important for cities like Wilmington. While there’s more work to be done, this historic legislation is taking a significant step towards cleaning up our drinking water,” said Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo.

While it’s not clear when the money will start flowing, elected leaders felt confident a significant amount would be coming to our area, in part because EPA Administrator Michael Regan, the former Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, is so close to the drinking water issue involving the Cape Fear River.

“He is keenly aware of this issue and I am confident that is why it’s risen to such a national importance. I am sure that North Carolina and the treatment of this issue is going to get its fair due because he is in charge of championing it,” State Representative Deb Butler said of Regan’s efforts to fight GenX and other “forever chemicals” that have been found in the drinking water in Wilmington and across the country.

In June, a $45 million dollar granulated carbon filtration system is expected to come online at the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority that will remove well over 90% of PFAs from the drinking water. Local officials have sued Chemours, the DuPont spin-off company upriver where GenX has been coming from, but that lawsuit could take years to resolve. The federal money could help offset costs in the meantime.

“I remember the fear that gripped our community in 2017, after the announcement that our drinking water treatment plants — some of the most advanced in the country — couldn’t remove PFAS chemicals’” said Riverkeeper Kemp Burdette, Cape Fear River Watch. “I believe that PFAS pollution is the environmental issue of our time. An issue this big and this urgent requires historic action. Historic action requires historic funding. And 10 billion dollars in funding shows that the government is serious about tackling the issue of our time. Cape Fear River Watch is grateful to the Biden Administration for recognizing the importance of PFAS cleanup. This funding will help clean up wastewater discharges and protect drinking water. It will help make our river, the mighty Cape Fear, safer to drink, safer to swim in, and safer to fish from. And let’s be honest, clean water is something every single American should support.”

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