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Next Steps: Now that we know about the presence of GenX in the Cape Fear River

With+research+underway+on+how+GenX+will+affect+Wilmington+and+the+surrounding+areas%2C+many+are+starting+to+wonder+whether+or+not+they+should+opt+to+drinking+bottled+water+instead+of+tap.+
With research underway on how GenX will affect Wilmington and the surrounding areas, many are starting to wonder whether or not they should opt to drinking bottled water instead of tap.

With research underway on how GenX will affect Wilmington and the surrounding areas, many are starting to wonder whether or not they should opt to drinking bottled water instead of tap.

Mel Melcon

Mel Melcon

With research underway on how GenX will affect Wilmington and the surrounding areas, many are starting to wonder whether or not they should opt to drinking bottled water instead of tap.

Kristen Burgess, Staff Writer

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In the wake of a Star News story that broke the information of the presence of a potentially harmful chemical, GenX, in the Cape Fear River, fifteen panelists gathered on the stage of UNCW’s Kenan Auditorium on June 28. An event opened to the public, over four hundred concerned citizens, students, and members of the community were in attendance. Signs that read “I am not your labrat” and “Environmental Pollution Agency” were being hoisted over the crowd by worried citizens of New Hanover County.

While it was recorded that DuPont had stopped making a chemical known as “C8” at their Fayetteville plant in 2014, their “Performance Chemicals” business was launched in 2015. This resulted in the birth of a new firm, The Chemours Co.

Due to the tests conducted in 2016 by N.C. State University, the presence of GenX was found along the Cape Fear River towards Fayetteville. The common use for GenX is in the manufacture of Teflon, says North Carolina State University Professor Dr. Detlef Knappe. Dr. Knappe was on the team of individuals that detected the presence of GenX in the Cape Fear River. In May of 2017, samples of the water suspected to be contaminated by Chemours Co. were sent to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality for testing. No results have been sent back yet.

On the importance of a strong environmental protection agency, Mayor Bill Saffo said, “We want to make certain that what is being manufactured is not creating havoc in our communities. When you go to the grocery store, you expect the FDA will keep your food safe.”

Among audience members present at the panel, outbursts of “we want answers” and “why don’t you know anything” were shouted out. Director of Environmental Health & Safety at UNCW, Stan Harts, said, “UNCW is closely watching the situation, awaiting guidance from agencies including the NC Department of Environmental Quality, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority. No state or federal agencies have informed the public or UNCW that we should not drink the water. I urge everyone to be informed of the issue and we will issue updates to the UNCW community as soon as possible.”

Within the campus level, students are growing more concerned on whether they should be acting on this information as the anxiety for answers rises among the community. UNCW senior Samantha Cinelli said, “If they’re saying there’s nothing to worry about, and that they don’t know, it makes me feel like there is something they know and possibly something I should be concerned about.”

Harts indicated that the university is within the map area that is serviced by Cape Fear River Water. Currently, the school only uses this groundwater for irrigation and cooling purposes. And when it comes to drinking the water as of right now, Mayor Saffo says it comes down to a personal decision.

“It is definitely in the water, it is low risk. Until I have the Environmental Protection Agency here to tell you that it is safe to drink, I would buy water. We’ve got to get the agencies down here communicating with us whether it is safe or not safe,” says Saffo.

 

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Next Steps: Now that we know about the presence of GenX in the Cape Fear River