BRUNSWICK COUNTY — The County on Wednesday released a list of frequently asked questions about GenX, the chemical that has been found in the Cape Fear River.
We are publishing that document in full, edited for style.
“As we learn more about GenX, we will post updates and information at www.brunswickcountync.gov/genx,” it states. “Below are answers to some frequently asked questions.”
What is GenX?
According to DuPont Chemours, GenX is a technology developed to make high-performance polymers used in cabling, cookware non-stick coatings, laptops, cell phones, and a host of similar applications. The processing aid associated with the process is commonly referred to as GenX. GenX replaces the use of PFOA (perflurooctanaic acid).
What do we know about GenX?
We know that the EPA has not yet developed a drinking water regulation for this contaminant and that there is limited information available on it. Ultimately, EPA will determine potential impacts and safety standards.
What is a contaminant?
The EPA’s Web site states, “The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) defines ‘contaminant’ as any physical, chemical, biological, or radiological substance or matter in water. Drinking water may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some contaminants. Some contaminants may be harmful if consumed at certain levels in drinking water. The presence of contaminants does not necessarily indicate that the water poses a health risk.”
When did Brunswick County learn about GenX?
Brunswick County was not aware of the presence of GenX in the Cape Fear River, or the study performed by researchers from N.C. State University, until recent media reports.
What studies are available?
According to a release by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, “There are no U.S. regulatory guideline levels for GenX. However, as part of the European chemical registration, a two-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.”
So what does this study indicate?
During discussions on June 13, toxicologists and other professionals within the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services provided additional insights. The Derived No Effect Level is the level of exposure to a chemical substance above which humans should not be exposed. The “Derived No Effect Level” is based on the most vulnerable population (infants). According to this study, the amount of GenX in the finished drinking water would need to be more than 100 times greater than that measured in the 2013-2014 samples of the raw source water in the Cape Fear River to exceed the Derived No Effect Level for the most vulnerable population. Another way in which to describe the risk is that the levels of GenX detected in 2013-2014 (631 ng/L) is only 1 percent of the Derived No Effect Level (70,909 ng/L).
Should I drink bottled or distilled water?
The health needs and situations of individuals vary widely and the use of bottled water or distilled water is an individual decision that should be discussed with your physician. It should be noted that the makeup of bottled water is dependent on its source and treatment process and distilled water is devoid of essential minerals. Water from Brunswick County Public Utilities (BCPU) meets all EPA and state standards regarding water quality.
Will there be bottled water provided?
At this time, there are no plans to provide bottled water.
With GenX in the Cape Fear River, what can/will Brunswick County do to ensure the water is safe?
Brunswick County Public Utilities treats its source water above and beyond current state and federal standards and maintains a robust sampling and monitoring schedule.
Additionally, we believe in the importance of participating in studies such as this one to ensure that emerging compounds are discovered and appropriately regulated to protect drinking water utilities and their customers. BCPU believes the best next step is to determine if this compound needs to be regulated.
Additionally, Brunswick County supports and encourages efforts by Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to eliminate discharges of chemicals into the river that have possible detrimental impacts on drinking water source quality.
To view BCPU’s water quality reports, with information about Brunswick County’s water system and the sampling mentioned above, visit www.brunswickcountync.gov/utilities/reports/.
Does BCPU monitor for GenX? If not, why?
Due to GenX’s status as an emerging and unregulated contaminant, there are no EPA-certified methods to monitor and test for the substance. Commercial testing facilities are very limited at this time. Brunswick County is evaluating options for testing and will provide additional information when available. For more information on permitting and compliance enforcement, please contact the State of North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality — the agency responsible for monitoring and regulating dischargers on the river.
Can customers put a filter on their tap to remove GenX?
GenX is a new, unregulated compound and we are unaware of technologies capable of removing it from the water at this time. We will provide more information as it becomes available.
What is being done about this situation?
Since we were made aware of the presence of GenX in the Cape Fear River, we have been in constant communication with other area utility providers, state and federal government, and private agencies to learn as much as we can about the chemical, its potential impacts, and what steps to take next. Additionally, our Health Department is in contact with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services about any public health research on the chemical.
Further, county staff and Commissioners are in communication with New Hanover County, the City of Wilmington, and the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority. We are jointly requesting a meeting with Chemours, the company producing GenX, and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality to find out about the chemical, its potential impacts, and the company’s plans. We will also make them aware of our concerns and those expressed to us by citizens.
Will Rep. Rouzer be involved?
Rep. Rouzer has issued a statement concerning GENX, published below:
Will there be a public meeting to discuss?
At this time, a public meeting has not been scheduled regarding GenX. If one is scheduled, it will be posted at www.brunswickcountync.gov/genx and at www.brunswickcountync.gov/clerk/news.
Is a map available showing locations within the Brunswick County service area that receives source water from the Cape Fear River?
The Northwest Water Treatment Plant (Cape Fear River source water) can and sometimes does provide water throughout the Brunswick County water system. While some areas of the system typically receive water from one plant or the other, a map has not been provided because it may be misinterpreted to indicate that some customers may never receive water from the Northwest Water Treatment Plant.
Areas that typically receive water from the 211 Groundwater Treatment Plant include Bald Head Island, Caswell Beach, Oak Island, Southport, and St. James. All other areas typically receive water from the Northwest Water Treatment Plant (Cape Fear River surface water). Bald Head Island also has a groundwater treatment facility and supplements their water supply from Brunswick County.