DUBLIN — A crowd of about 200 turned out for a GenX forum Thursday evening, and many residents voiced frustration over how slowly things are moving.
“I think it went well,” said DEQ representative Sheila Holman after the meeting. “We understand people have concerns, and I hope tonight was helpful to them.”
The forum began with comments from several elected officials, followed by reports from DEQ divisions.
“The reports you’ll hear tonight are the same reports we hear in the N.C. legislature,” said N.C. House Rep. William Brisson of Dublin. “We’re not hiding anything; there are no hidden reports.”
Rep.Billy Richardson urged residents to take advantage of a gift from the founding fathers.
“Chemours is set up as a dummy company so you can’t get to DuPont …” he explained. “The founding fathers gave you the court system to allow the general citizen from Bladen County to stand toe to toe with the president of DuPont and have your complaint heard. You need to avail yourself of the courtroom.”
His remarks were met with applause and echoed later in the evening by an attendee who said nothing was going to be done unless people banded together in class action lawsuits to hit Chemours where it mattered — the wallet.
Director of the Division of Air Quality Mike Abraczinskas informed guests DEQ is currently taking rainwater samples. Because particles in the air — like GenX could be — would be captured by rain droplets and fall to the ground, evaluating rainwater samples would give the agency an idea of whether GenX is affecting air quality.
“This is really a central piece,” he explained. “We’re building a foundational knowledge that will reveal solutions that will work.”
Division of Wastewater Management Michael Scott said, to date, 505 private wells have been sampled. Of those, 151 have registered above the state’s health goal; 148 have been negative; and 206 have tested positive, but below the health goal of 140 parts per trillion. Phase I involved sampling within a mile from the center of the plant. When those tests came back positive, Phase II was enacted, enlarging the radius to one mile from the borders of the plant’s property. When those results came back positive as well, Phase III involved additional testing, and Phase IV is currently underway, involving 50 additional tests. DEQ will continue testing until results come back showing minimal contamination.
Scott emphasized tests are underway regarding a carbon filtration system.
“Chemours is sampling one well with 800 ppt, and data does show it does filter the compounds out,” he explained. “This is not enough data, and we have not approved this filter. We want to study this for several months.”
When Scott mentioned the Division has sent a letter to Chemours asking for interim measures, resident Kelly Hair had enough.
“This is bull—,” she said, standing up. “We shouldn’t even be here asking questions. Tell DuPont to go out there and drink the water. Enough is enough.”
When Hair left the auditorium to cool off, Scott told the audience, “I don’t argue her point. She obviously has questions, and we’re here to answer them.”
According to Scott, the Division is also:
— Looking into whether deeper wells drilled into bedrock, as opposed to the shallow 100-foot wells common in the area, would prove to be a viable solution.
— Studying fish tissue to determine how GenX and other compounds are affecting common food sources like fish and deer.
After the reports, guests were given an opportunity to speak. Though a few had questions, some wanted to vent.
“I’m trying to understand how we devolved into Third-World living,” said Amanda Dew, whose family owns Marshwood Lake.
Veteran Jimmy Dew recounted his own history with Agent Orange, drawing the parallel of another substance once promised to be safe but later determined to be the source of many of his own health problems, which have rendered him fully disabled.
Wilmington resident Harper Peterson encouraged guests to look at the political landscape.
“Every night when we go to bed — it doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, black, white, or Hispanic — we go to bed asking, ‘Is my water safe to drink?’” he commented. “It is a basic human right for every citizen to have clean, safe drinking water.
“No matter what you think of him, we had a governor seven months ago that asked for $2.5 million in emergency funds to deal with this. The House asked the Senate just two weeks ago for (additional funding) and the Senate wouldn’t even listen to them. That’s how important this is to them. That’s how important you are to them. We can’t take it any longer.”
After the meeting, legislators responded by saying the issue is not unimportant, but studying must be done first.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.