Earlier this year, news reports revealed that GenX, a key ingredient in Teflon linked to cancer and a host of other ailments, had been found in the drinking water system of the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) and the Cape Fear River.

Since that time, there have been dozens of news stories on the issue, numerous community meetings in the Cape Fear region and new revelations about the source of the chemical — the Chemours chemical plant in Cumberland County — and its presence in industrial and drinking wells near the plant.

Last week a General Assembly study committee — the House Select Committee on North Carolina River Quality — held its first meeting on the GenX issue. At the request of committee chairman Rep. Ted Davis of New Hanover County, the North Carolina Coastal Federation presented its priorities for a legislative response to the GenX issue to the committee.

The federation also made arrangements for Dr. Lee Ferguson, professor of engineering at Duke University, to present to the committee about his work developing monitoring methods to detect “emerging contaminants” like GenX in water.

The federation’s comments, where were presented by Tracy Skrabal, coastal scientist and regional manager at the Wrightsville Beach office, can be found here. Dr. Ferguson’s presentation can be read here.

The federation’s priorities for GenX response include:

  • Development of a permanent water monitoring program that allows for the early detection of emerging contaminants in the state’s public drinking water supplies
  • Creation of an accessible, transparent information system that provides all stakeholders in drinking water safety — especially the public — access to the same information about North Carolina’s water quality
  • Development of a public, transparent process for making the difficult policy decisions and choices that are necessary to protect public drinking water supplies
  • Vigorous enforcement of the Clean Water Act, including its antidegradation standard
  • A review of all industrial discharge permits now in place to ensure that the permits’ limits are sufficient to protect drinking water supplies from emerging contaminants.

Dr. Ferguson’s presentation outlined the technical challenges in monitoring emerging contaminants like GenX, which often have not been studied and do not have established environmental or public standards. He also summarized efforts now underway in other states and countries to monitor public water supplies for emerging contaminants and prevent these substances from going undetected for long periods of time.

The federation will continue to track the GenX issue in the Cape Fear Region and in Raleigh. You can also find coverage of the GenX issue in Coastal Review Online here.