TAR HEEL — Neighbors of Chemours will not get municipal water lines, if the DuPont subsidiary gets its way.
On Friday — one day shy of the deadline set by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality — Chemours submitted a report outlining its plan for the provision of a permanent, safe water supply to the residents affected by high levels of perflourinated compounds, such as GenX. In May, the company was ordered by DEQ to working with Bladen and other stakeholding counties to develop the plan and, having enlisted the Charlotte engineering firm Parsons to study the feasibility of providing municipal water to Chemours’ neighbors, the chemical manufacturer reported the results last week to DEQ.
Running water to Bladen County property east of the Cape Fear River, the firm found, would cost an average of $74,000 per home, something that would not be cost prohibitive if 90 percent of the property owners agreed to hook up to the water system.
It would be a different story for Bladen County residents west of the river, however, as well as all of Chemours’ other neighbors. The average cost per home for Bladen County residents west of the river would be $442,500. Cumberland County residents east of the river could be supplied municipal water at an average cost of $209,733 if by Fayetteville Public Works or at a cost of $96,400 if supplied by a new well in Bladen County’s water system. Municipal water to Cumberland County homes west of the river would come with an average price tag of $341,714.
Running the water lines would take two to four years in Bladen County and five to 10 years in Cumberland County, according to the report.
As an alternative, the report mentions filters as a long-term, feasible solution to the contamination.
“Carbon filtration systems can be installed much more quickly and cost-effectively at all locations in Cumberland County and east of the Cape Fear River in Bladen County,” Chemours Program Manager Christel Compton said in a letter to DEQ, adding the filters are a “highly effective, readily implementable and long-term solution …”
Whole-home carbon filtration systems are estimated to cost approximately $10,000 each.
“Chemours claims that it is ‘too expensive’ for them to pay the cost of permanent water lines, but they made $1.7 billion profit in the first quarter of 2018,” said Tar Heel resident Patsy Sheppard, “so they can well afford to pay what it will cost to provide a permanent solution for clean water to the people (whose) water, land, and air has been permanently contaminated by their toxic chemicals, chemicals that both Chemours and DuPont knew they were discharging illegally and excessively.”
Tests of six filtration systems on wells near Chemours revealed an absence of GenX and similar compounds.
“Our view has been reinforced by unequivocally positive results of pilot testing to date,” Compton said in her letter.
Bladen County residents have expressed their displeasure with anything other than municipal water, in part because of the unknown future of the Chemours.
“I believe that DuPont spun off Chemours to isolate its assets from the large damages that will result from DuPont/Chemours contamination of our area,” said Sheppard in a recent letter to the Bladen Journal. “If that happens, people with filtration systems will be left with the massive costs of maintaining those systems …”
Sheppard’s concerns may be well founded. Last year, N.C. State scientist and discoverer of GenX Detlaff Knappe studied the effect of various filter systems on drinking water in the Cape Fear Region. According to Knappe’s study, whole-house carbon filters reduced GenX levels from approximately 70 ppt to roughly 40 ptt, and all PFCs and PFOs were reduced from approximately 200 ppt to 120 ppt.
“Carbon works, but it requires a lot of babysitting,” Knappe told the Bladen Journal. “(The) filters would have to get monitored at a minimum every month, so that means every month you would have to collect samples from all homes getting analyzed and quickly determine if the carbon has to get changed out,” the scientist commented. “Will Chemours commit to doing that? That’s one of the things I’m concerned about.”
A family of four might consume 12,000 gallons of water each month, which would require approximately 200 pounds of activated carbon to treat. Knappe said that amount of product could require a shed to store and come with a monthly pricetag of $300 to replace.
An additional problem with carbon filters is their preponderance to wane in effectiveness.
“Activated carbon, if you test it after one week, may do very well,” commented Knappe, “but after 10 weeks, it may not do anything. Sometimes, if you let it go too long, it may actually do more harm than good.”
In her letter, Sheppard urged Bladen County to “convince Chemours to provide a permanent safe water solution to our area in the form of water lines from a well that is not contaminated by GenX, C8, or any of the dozens of other dangerous chemicals DuPont has polluted our area with.”
The DuPont company has long held that GenX and other chemicals produced by the plant are not harmful. While the effect of the compound on humans has not been studied, animal testing of C8, a closely related compound, show links to cancer.
Bladen County officials could not be reached for comment.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.