By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
NEW HANOVER CTY - Carolina Beach Town Manager Michael Cramer informed the Town Council Tuesday night that the presence of a chemical called GenX in the Cape Fear River has no impact on the Carolina Beach drinking water system because the Town draws their water from deep wells located throughout the Island.
GenX has been detected in the Cape Fear River. The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) in Wilmington, NC, draws water from the river and treats it before it enters the public water supply and is consumed by customers.
GenX is a chemical used by the manufacturing company Chemours located in Fayetteville, NC.
According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), GenX is a chemical used in the manufacturing of fluoropolymer resins, which are used for nonstick coatings such as Teflon and other purposes. GenX is part of the perfluorinated family of compounds that includes the chemicals PFOS and PFOA. In 2009, GenX was developed as a replacement for PFOA thus limited health information is available for GenX. It's estimated that approximately 250,000 people are served by water drawn from the Cape Fear River and treated by CFPUA.
That does not include Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach. Some small areas served by CFPUA draw water from wells rather than water treated from the Cape Fear River.
Cramer explained to the Council Tuesday night June 13th, "As you all know over the past couple of weeks the New Hanover County community has heard a lot of talk about the presence of unregulated compounds in the water and specifically a compound called GenX in the surface water of the Cape Fear River Basin. The study that was conducted by the North Carolina State University professors and reported by the Star News is based on surface water and is not addressing ground water. GenX has not been found in ground water. This is an important point."
Cramer explained, "The Town of Carolina Beach recieves all of its drinking water from the PeeDee or Castle Hayne aquifers. So none of the Town of Carolina Beach's water comes from the Cape Fear River. Our water is clean per the state and federal regulations and does not contain any of the GenX material. We do go out and work with the EPA with various types of tests dealing with unregulated or new and different compounds. In the past the Town has been a part of multiple EPA authorized monitoring studies over the years in an effort to identify and detect regulated and unregulated compounds in our water supply. In December of 2014 and again in May of 2015 the Town allowed our water to be tested by the EPA and a company... to mintor for 21 different compounds that the EPA was interested in looking at. Out of those 21 compounds only one was found in our drinking water supply to be at or above the level in which it was tested for. Everything else including GenX was below the detection level. The one type of compound was Strontium which is an organic chemical. It's a naturally occuring element on the periodic table and is present in most ground water."
He said, "GenX compounds, once again, were not detected in the PeeDee or Castle Hayne ground water aquifers that are used by the Town of Carolina Beach. The Town of Carolina Beach drinking water continues to meet all state and federal drinking water standards and is safe to drink."
GenX was created to replace the PFOA called C8 which led to a settlement by DuPont and Chemours of over $670 million dollars for a class action lawsuit originating in the Ohio Valley.
According to DHHS, "The recent media reports on GenX in the Cape Fear River are associated with the paper written by Sun et al. This paper was published in November 2016. Media reports cite 631 ng/L concentrations of GenX detected in the Cape Fear River. This number is taken from the Sun et al. article based on data from 2013-2014. It is not known whether these levels reflect the current concentrations of GenX in the Cape Fear River. Limited health information is available for GenX. PFOA and PFOS (chemicals that are part of the same family of fluorinated compounds) were recently reviewed by the EPA and the most common effects observed in laboratory tests were kidney and testicular cancer, impaired fetal development, and effects on the liver, thyroid, and immune system. The EPA recently released a Health Advisory with recommendations for drinking water not to exceed 70 parts per trillion (70 ng/L) for PFOS and PFOA combined. There are no U.S. regulatory guideline levels for GenX. However, as part of the European chemical registration, a 2-year chronic toxicity and cancer study with rats was performed. They reported a Derived No Effect Level (DNEL) of 0.01 mg/kg bw/day. Based on U.S. risk assessment calculations, this corresponds to a concentration in drinking water of 70,909 ng/L of GenX- more than 100 times greater than the mean value of 631 ng/L detected in the Cape Fear River. Based upon these data, the GenX levels detected in 2013-2014 would be expected to pose a low risk to human health."
The EPA considers GenX an emerging contaminant and has yet to regulate the chemical.
The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority released a statement June 7th explaining, "CFPUA is aware of the N.C. State study concerning unregulated contaminants in the Cape Fear River. We take our responsibility to provide clean drinking water very seriously, and we reasonably expect
private dischargers to behave responsibly and regulatory agencies to provide proper guidance and oversight. Since the State of North Carolina and EPA establish the drinking water standards we follow, we will be looking to them to determine whether this currently unregulated contaminant should be regulated in our source water. As a local water utility, we look forward to supporting the state and EPA in ensuring our customers continue to enjoy safe and reliable drinking water. In the meantime, CFPUA continues to meet all state and federal drinking water standards for safety."
The Chemours Company has agreed to meet with local and state officials regarding the GenX issue this Thursday, June 15th at the New Hanover County Government Center.
Technical experts from Chemours Company will attend the meeting, along with representatives from New Hanover County, CFPUA, the City of Wilmington, Brunswick County, Pender County, and NCDEQ. This is not a public meeting and attendance is by invitation only.
At the request of New Hanover County, Chemours has agreed to allow a local pool reporter to attend the meeting. This reporter will share a full accounting of the discussion with all local media.
County Manager Chris Coudriet explained Tuesday, "New Hanover County administration determined that attendance at Thursday’s meeting with the Chemours Company be by invitation only to ensure that a meeting takes place and that the county gets answers to the public’s questions. My primary objective as directed by the Board of Commissioners was to secure this meeting, and the second objective was to make the meeting as open and transparent as possible."
He explained, "While we weren’t able to make this a public meeting through our negotiations with Chemours, New Hanover County was able to reach an agreement with the company to allow one pool reporter to attend the meeting. We offered this opportunity to the Star News, since it is the media outlet that uncovered the issue. There will be no audio or video taken by the reporter during the meeting; however, the county will provide photographs and brief b-roll footage of the start of the meeting to all local media. Additionally, the Star News pool reporter will share a full accounting of the meeting’s discussion with all media outlets."