Monday, June 24, 2024

What we learned at today’s press conference on GenX in the Cape Fear River

New Hanover County Chairman of the Board of Commissioners addressed the media during a press conference on GenX. (Michael Praats/Port City Daily)
New Hanover County Chairman of the Board of Commissioners addressed the media during a press conference on GenX.
(Port City Daily photo/MICHAEL PRAATS)

WILMINGTON — New Hanover County leaders along with other local government officials Thursday addressed the issue of the chemical known as GenX being dumped into the Cape Fear River by The Chemours Company. This came after a closed-door meeting with the company.

Only one reporter, Adam Wagner of Star News, was allowed into the closed meeting. He has provided the media with a list of his notes from the session.

Members of the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority attended the press conference but chose not to participate in the question and answer session. Representatives of The Chemours Company attended the closed session, but left before the press conference and declined to answer questions.

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

Women Organizing for Wilmington helped organize the protest Thursday at the New Hanover County Administrative Offices. (Port City Daily photo/MICHAEL PRAATS)
Women Organizing for Wilmington helped organize the protest Thursday at the New Hanover County Administrative Offices (Port City Daily photo/MICHAEL PRAATS)

Here is a list of the things we have learned regarding the situation.

Where we’re at now

  • According to County Commissioner Chairman Woody White: “The Chemours Company is a chemical company that is a spinoff of DuPont, 71 miles up stream. They are currently seeking a renewal of its permit to allow up to 26 million gallons of water per day withdrawn form the Cape Fear River – then discharging it back into the river.”
  • According to The Chemours Company, GenX is produced in two ways. First, it produces GenX as a part of the Teflon manufacturing process – that chemical must be recaptured and is not allowed in the water. Second, GenX also occurs as part of a completely separate manufacturing process that takes place at a different plant. When it occurs as a byproduct, the EPA does not regulate GenX’s discharge into the water.
  • White also said that The Chemours Company has no intentions of stopping its discharge of GenX into the Cape Fear River.
  • The Chemours Company estimates that it has already reduced the discharge of GenX by 80 percent.
  • The state has promised to set up a website dedicated to the GenX, North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Secretary Michael S. Regan said.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services has determined there is a low health risk due to exposure to GenX, Regan said.

What’s next

  • At the direction of Governor Roy Cooper the NCDEQ is leading a state investigation of the chemical GenX in the Cape Fear River.
  • The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality has been in touch with the federal Environmental Protection Agency – they are working to gather more information on GenX, but it is currently not regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
  • Starting as early as next week the N.C. DEQ will begin collecting and testing water from the Cape Fear River.
  • There will be future testing of groundwater, according to Sheila Holman, assistant secretary for the DEQ.
  • Asked if there were any industrial or commercial filtration systems capable of removing GenX from drinking water, no one at the press conference would answer. Commissioner White would say only that he did not know.
  • Technically the permit issued to The Chemours Company expired in October of 2016; the state is in the process of reviewing a new application. According to Regan, while the permit is under review, the company can legally operate on its old permit.

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