Saturday, February 4, 2023

CFPUA knew about GenX for over a year, vows to review communication and transparency

The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority first learned about the chemical GenX over a year ago, according to a release. (Port City Daily photo / BENJAMIN SCHACHTMAN)
The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority first learned about the chemical GenX over a year ago, according to a release. (Port City Daily photo / BENJAMIN SCHACHTMAN)

WILMINGTON — Cape Fear Public Utility Authority staff were notified about the presence of GenX over a year ago. The failure to disclose this information to the general public has led to an internal review of CFPUA’s communication and transparency policies, according to a release from Chairman Mike Brown.

CFPUA administrators and board members were present at a press conference Thursday that followed a closed-door meeting between CFPUA, local leaders and The Chemours Company – the Dupont spin-off that manufactures GenX. However, they declined to answer questions, including a specific question about when CFPUA first learned about GenX. New Hanover County Commissioner Woody White would say only that he hoped CFPUA would be “forthcoming” as soon as possible.

Brown’s statement answers the question: CFPUA knew about GenX for more than a year. Several hours after the closed-door meeting Brown released a statement about CFPUA’s knowledge of GenX and the organization’s communication policy. Brown wrote:

“As a member of the Wilmington community, I wholeheartedly agree that we, as the CFPUA Board, are obligated to provide transparency in all aspects of this organization, and that the Board of Directors is obligated to fulfill its duty to provide oversight and communicate openly with the public. Therefore, I am going to ask the Board to conduct a review regarding CFPUA’s involvement in and communication about the North Carolina State University’s study.”

“I am going to ask the Board to conduct a review regarding CFPUA’s involvement in and communication about the North Carolina State University’s study.”

According to Brown’s statement, Jennifer Adams will lead the internal review and the findings of which will be shared with the public by CFPUA’s Board of Directors.

Brown’s statement noted that on May 3, 2016, CFPUA first received the finding of an NC State study on “legacy and Emergency perfluororalkyl substances” (including GenX) in the Cape Fear watershed (you can read the study here). CFPUA is specifically mentioned in the study, which was published Nov. 10, 2016.

According to the release, the CFPUA followed all standard “due diligence” procedures but, because GenX is not legally restricted by the EPA, took no exceptional action. The chemical’s effect on humans has not been studied in depth — a point repeatedly made at the press conference.

Following the meeting of CFPUA and The Chemours Company, New Hanover County Commissioner Woody White was asked if he could in good conscience say the water was safe to drink. White could not vouch for the water’s safety, and would only say that he and his family are drinking it. Other officials would only say that water in the CFPUA system meets state and federal standards.

Despite meeting legal requirements, Brown acknowledged “public concern” and that GenXis a “time sensitive matter given public interest.” No timeline was given, but Brown promised the board was “committed to releasing results of the review on a timely basis.”

Read the entire statement on the CFPUA’s webpage.


Benjamin Schachtman can be reached at ben@localvoicemedia.com, @pcdben on twitter, and (910) 538-2001.

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