Early research shows GenX reduces oyster filtration, builds up in river sediment

Updated: Feb. 6, 2018 at 11:08 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SOUTHEASTERN NORTH CAROLINA (WECT) - Since receiving $250,000 from the NC Contingency and Emergency Fund in mid-November, about 15 UNC Wilmington researchers have been working to learn about GenX across four different studies.

"The unique space for academics and universities is that we're kind of an honest broker," said UNCW's Associate Provost for Research Ron Vetter, Ph.D. "I don't think really we have a dog in the fight. We're here to do research…and let the results speak for themselves."

UNC Wilmington researchers are exposing oysters to GenX-tainted water to learn more about how the chemical affects aquatic life. At very high concentrations -- between 10 and 100 parts per billion -- researchers found juvenile oysters didn't filter the water as well, which is essential for their feeding.

"Oysters are the perfect example of a creature that runs through and filters about 70 gallons of water a day," said Vetter. "So if they're filtering all that water…if there's GenX in the water, you would think that some of that might go into their tissue."

The oysters' studies will continue so researchers can learn more about how GenX impacts their growth, lifespan, and how the compound builds up inside them.

Researchers said they also plan to collect and study wild oysters for GenX buildup.

"(Oysters are) much more of a simple organism than a human being, so we thought that would be a good way to start," said Vetter.

Cape Fear River sediment testing has uncovered "measurable levels of GenX (1.3 pg/g)" in samples from the William O. Huske Dam. This testing is part of a study looking at four locations in the river up and downstream from the Chemours Fayetteville Works Plant.

These sediment samples will also be stored long term to measure how GenX breaks down over time.

Researchers have partnered with CFPUA to test raw and filtered water. Their goal is to measure the exact levels of GenX over time and identify new, previously unknown compounds. With this information, the researchers hope to better identify filters to remove the chemicals.

Copyright 2018 WECT. All rights reserved.