A potentially dangerous chemical known as GenX has been discovered in North Carolina’s Cape Fear River. The chemical has been traced back to industrial processes carried out by a chemical plant ran by Chemour which is a spinoff of DuPont.
Chemour claims that the chemical has been in the water since the 1980’s. However, the chemical has only been detected as recently as 2012. GenX was designed to replace a chemical known as PFOA, formerly used in teflon. While the effect of GenX on humans remains unknown, it has been associated with cancer and reproductive issues.
One problem that is contributing to an atmosphere of alarm in the Cape Fear region is the lack of information regarding this chemical.
During a meeting between Wilmington city council members and representatives of the company many questions were left unanswered.
Woody White, New Hanover County Commissioner, asked the company representatives if the water was safe to drink. According to him, ““It took them about a minute and a half to answer it (the question regarding the safety of GenX). It should be a yes or no question.”
This frustration was echoed by Frank Williams, chairman of the Brunswick County Commissioners, who flat out stated “We don’t have answers.”
There was an attitude of secrecy concerning the chemical as the presence of GenX was not disclosed to the county government nor to the public when Cape Fear Public Utility Authority officials were investigating it.
The Star News, a local paper, reports that when they asked Chemour representatives how the chemical got in the water the company wouldn’t respond.
The secrecy of the Chemour company has led to a general state of distrust regarding the safety of the drinking water. Many families have stopped drinking tap water altogether.
Lary Cahoon, a biology professor at UNCW, says he is no longer drinking the tap water. He also advised pregnant women and children to avoid tap water.
The NC Department of Environmental Quality is conducting an ongoing investigation into the chemical’s presence in the Cape Fear.