CFPUA partners with outside law firm, communications group to handle water issue

CFPUA partners with outside law firm, communications group to handle water issue
The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority will start flushing maintenance for the summer beginning Tuesday, May 29.

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority has employed the services of an outside law firm and a strategic communications agency in the wake of news that an unregulated compound was discovered its raw water supply. The compound can not be removed by current filtering equipment.

GenX is a replacement chemical for C8, which was used in the production of Teflon products, until concerns over the health risks of exposure to C8 led to lawsuits. While there are no definitive studies on the health effects of exposure to GenX, a state release this week indicates the levels of GenX discovered in the Cape Fear River are considered low risk. The information on the exposure was published in November 2016 by a NC State researcher.

Since that time, CFPUA leaders say they've been working with state environmental regulators to understand the significance of the exposure. After the story became widely known this month, Executive Director Jim Flechtner says CFPUA added the law firm of Brooks Pierce and communications agency Eckel & Vaughn for assistance.

On its website, the Brooks Pierce firm advertises "extensive experience representing companies and local governments regarding virtually all types of environmental issues relating to regulatory compliance, permitting, litigation and transactional matters." The company bills on an hourly basis.

Eckel & Vaughn out of Raleigh will help CFPUA with messaging and public outreach, according to Flechtner.  It is unclear how much those services will cost. The final contract could be executed as soon as Thursday.

Flechtner says CFPUA chose the firm because it has extensive experience across the state and a great reputation for handling these issues. He pointed out the group helped launch a new brand for the region during the Wells Fargo Golf Championship at Eagle Point last month. The firm's founder is related to the employer of CFPUA Board Chairman Mike Brown. While Flechtner said that is a fair question, that was not a factor in this decision and was fully disclosed in the process.

Flechtner says CFPUA has not put a budget together for either of these services at this time.

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