GRAY’S CREEK — A Gray’s Creek woman believes GenX to be the cause of her health problems.
For 32 years, Annie Stevens has lived in Gray’s Creek, her home that she shares with her husband located two miles north of DuPont’s Chemours plant. A normally healthy person, Stevens recently began to experience pain in her stomach and sought medical help. She requested an MRI, and the results showed that she has cysts on her kidneys and problems with her liver.
“Nobody in my family has cancer or kidney problems,” she explained.
The lack of familial precedent, combined with numerous neighbors who have had cancer an had Stevens concerned. In addition, she has seen problems when she brushes her teeth.
“Every time I brush my teeth with the well water, it causes my mouth to be sore around my teeth and the roof of my mouth,” she remarked.
Erratic behavior of birds and other wildlife have also contributed to Stevens’ theory. She said some days, wildlife are plentiful around her feeders, and other days, there isn’t one in sight.
“It’s like they can tell when something’s wrong, like there’s something in the air,” she commented.
She also said she “regularly” hears alarms going off at the Chemours plant.
“Whenever I hear one, I tell my husband, ‘DuPont must have had another spill,’” she said. “It’s just got so common we don’t even pay attention to it anymore.”
When her well was tested, results showed GenX present at 120 ppt, slightly below the state’s health goal of 140 ppt. State officials have repeatedly emphasized the health goal is a number erring on the side of caution.
“This is the number that we think would be safe if exposed to GenX on a regular basis over a long period of time,” said Mike Aberzinskez with the Division of Air Quality, at a GenX forum held at Bladen Community College.
For Stevens and those like her living with GenX in their water, what’s not known is what is most concerning.
“They don’t know,” said Cynthia Bergen, who attended the same forum. “Everything they know is about C8, and they know that causes cancer in animals. They don’t know what this does.”
To err on the side of caution herself, Stevens has installed a charcoal filter on her well and said it lowered the prevalence of GenX from 120 ppt to 110 ppt. In addition, she and her husband stopped eating the food grown in their ¼-acre garden.
“We’re afraid to eat the vegetables, because we don’t know what this will do,” remarked the seasoned gardener. “The leaves on our tomatoes and potatoes curled up and died, like something had been sprayed on them. We asked the (Department of Environmental Quality) about it, and they were supposed to come out and check, but we haven’t heard anything from them.”
Living upstream as they do, Stevens is convinced the compound is airborne.
“We actually have three wells on our property — one for our house, one from when our daughter lived in a trailer, and one near the barn,” she explained. “The one for the house had the highest level, and there are lots of trees around it. One had 18 ppt, and it only has a few trees around it. The last one didn’t have any (GenX), and it doesn’t have any trees around it.
“I think it’s in the air, and it sticks to the trees, and when we have rain, it washes into the ground.”
An odor Stevens described as a “sweet smell” in the morning and again in the evening, in her mind, justify her fears.
Those fears have led the couple to start looking down the road. They have talked about moving but believe the damage has already been done.
“Who’s going to want a house with GenX?” she questioned. “We wouldn’t get anything for it.”
She added, “It would be hard to move at our age anyway.”
Stuck in their home and battling health conditions, Stevens thinks Chemours needs to step up.
“Sometimes I hurt so bad I can hardly stand it, and I wake up at night thinking about this,” she remarked. “People need to start coming out and saying something. Who’s going to pay my doctor bills? We need to stick together — pull together — and go to courts. It’s a shame what they’re doing.”
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.