UNCW researcher details possible water studies funded with HB 56

UNCW researcher details possible water studies funded with HB 56

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - A UNCW researcher provided some insight into ongoing research of GenX and other water contaminants as well as additional studies that would be funded through House Bill 56 if passed into law, which was vetoed by Governor Roy Cooper Thursday morning.

The ongoing drinking water study began Sept. 1 and will last one year. For the first four months, UNCW researchers will develop their methods for measuring and identifying any undiscovered per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the water. The last 8 months researchers will collect raw and finished drinking water weekly for analysis.

"Right now they're looking at developing the methodology and getting the instrumentation all calibrated to do this work. They're also looking at previous studies that have been done including the one that originally identified GenX in our water," said Dr. Ron Vetter, chief research officer at UNCW. "Potentially we could even develop a kit that people could use in their homes."

The ongoing research study is funded by the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) and will cost approximately $65,000. The study's lead investigator is Ralph Mead, Ph.D., and he is working with a team of 5 faculty members.

While this research is underway, all reports and data will be made public, said Vetter.

In response to Gov. Cooper's veto of House Bill 56, which would provide $250,000 to UNC Wilmington for new research studies into GenX pollution, Vetter said, "I think probably what [Gov. Cooper] is saying is he doesn't think the response is sufficient, that we need more money, and we need it to go to some of those agencies that are responsible for keeping track of our water quality. And I think UNCW would agree with that, we also think though, that this is a first step, it's not the final step, so some initial funding to the university and to other universities in the system I think is appropriate."

The proposed money in House Bill 56 would fund 4 main projects, according to a document provided by Vetter to WECT:

  • Develop and implement the analysis of sediments, which can accumulate GenX
  • Conduct biodegradation studies in sediments
  • Conduct bioaccumulation studies (e.g., in oysters)
  • Conduct some studies related to human impact (e.g., economic impacts and water filtration system testing)

"We have a lot of oyster research going on, so we believe that would be a good candidate to look at the accumulation, the bioaccumulation of this material, but getting funding from the state would make that happen much quicker I think," said Vetter.

Copyright 2017 WECT. All rights reserved.