State Has Stopped Chemours’ GenX Discharge for Now, But Federal Action Needed for Permanent Solution
Federal officials must set limits for GenX and other emerging contaminants so that North Carolina can permanently control its discharge and ensure the safety of its drinking water, Governor Roy Cooper today told the US Environmental Protection Agency.
In a letter to EPA Administrator E. Scott Pruitt, Governor Cooper asked the EPA to move more quickly to finalize its health assessment and set a maximum contaminant level for the unregulated chemical GenX.
“When we turn on the tap to get a drink, cook a meal for our family, or run a bath for our children, we count on that water to be safe. North Carolina must have your help to make sure the water is safe for millions of our families,” Gov. Cooper wrote in the letter.
At the Governor’s direction, the NC Department of Environmental Quality along with the NC Department of Health and Human Services launched an investigation June 14 into the presence of GenX in the Cape Fear River. The river serves as the primary source of drinking water for Bladen, Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender counties.
The Cooper administration and others got Chemours, the chemical’s manufacturer, to stop discharging GenX into the Cape Fear. As a result, initial water tests being conducted by DEQ show that levels of GenX in the water supply are down dramatically. State officials continue to collect water samples, with samples being tested at an EPA lab in North Carolina and a private lab in Colorado.
Additional action from the EPA is necessary in order for North Carolina to be able to permanently require Chemours to limit or end discharge of GenX or any currently unregulated chemical. Gov. Cooper is also pushing the EPA to revisit its existing consent order with Chemours to apply to all releases of GenX.
In addition, the letter asks the EPA to use its authority under a federal law that regulates the introduction of new chemicals, the US Toxic Substances Control Act, to examine wastewater emissions more carefully and require multiple health studies for new chemicals.
“The water, health and welfare of the people of North Carolina require your protection now from unregulated emerging contaminants like GenX, and I look forward to working with your agency on this and a variety of water quality issues,” Governor Cooper wrote.
More information about the state’s ongoing investigation of GenX is available at deq.nc.gov/news/hot-topics/genx-investigation.
New Hanover County Holds Related Press Conference
New Hanover County NC hosted a press conference the afternoon of July 17, 2017, following the Governor’s release above. The press conference was streamed live from the New Hanover County Historic Courthouse in Wilmington NC to provide comments on the information released by the state.
New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chairman Woody White, City of Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo, Brunswick County Board of Commissioners Chairman Frank Williams, Pender County Board of Commissioners Chairman George Brown, and local public health directors participated.
During this press conference, issues of water quality, legal recourse/accountability, the contamination timeline (multi-generatinal in residents’ water supply), health standards, local testing levels, the state’s leadership role, the need for the EPA to step up, and discharge stoppage were discussed. Questions were also taken during the broadcast. The press conference was broadcast live on NHCTV.com, Spectrum channel 13 and Charter Spectrum channel 5, and the county’s Facebook page where it may be available for future viewing.