ELIZABETHTOWN — If Thursday’s meeting with the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality was any indication, residents in the area are generally supportive of Chemours staying open, but they want the state to force the company to do the right thing.
At the Bladen County Cooperative Extension office Thursday night, the state hosted one of its public information sessions, the first of its kind in the Mother County, to update the public about the ongoing investigation into per- and polyflourinated compounds like the ones produced by Chemours.
“You’ll never hear me say shut down Chemours,” said Mike Watters, a vocal advocate for the neighbors of Chemours and owner of one of the homes being studied by DEQ. After telling state officials one of the company’s products – Kevlar – had saved his life, he added, “There’s important stuff coming out of this company, so we need to coexist, but we need the state to speak up for us.”
Multiple residents at the meeting voiced concern over Chemours’ recent decision to discontinue offering drinking water at the plant. While the company still ships bottled water to the homes of people whose wells tested above the state’s provision health goal, picking up additional water at the plant is no longer an option.
A spokeswoman for Chemours told the Bladen Journal the change was made so those needing water could get it. One example of the company being taken advantage of was someone from Houston coming to get water, she said. The rate for water distribution had recently had a significant change, meaning by the truckload.
Several residents voiced frustration over the quantity of water they are now receiving, saying the supply is running out before the delivery trucks get to their house, or they are receiving significantly less water because supply is low.
“We recognize the need for secondary sources,” said Michael Scott, director of the Department of Wastewater Management. “Trucks can break down … or a host of other problems could arise, and people need another source for clean water. We’re working on this.”
Not everyone at the meeting, however, was supportive of leaving the company open while the issue is resolved.
“You can shut them down temporarily,” Katie Gallagher suggested to state officials. “Make them feel some pain like these people who have cancer.”
Gallagher alluded to multiple people at the meeting who speculated health concerns of loved ones were attributable to perflourinated compounds.
One Bladen County commissioner even called on the company to make some changes.
“I will assure you this — tomorrow morning I’ll make a phone call, and you’ll have bottled water,” Chairman Ray Britt told the crowd. Turning to the panel of officials, he added, “And if they don’t, shut (Chemours) down. Shut them down until this is made right.”
Britt challenged the panel to force Chemours to assume financial responsibility for running municipal water lines to the residents with contaminated wells.
Department of Environmental Quality Director of Water Resources Linda Culpepper talked to guests at the information session Thursday about other areas of the state where perflourinated compounds are being found.
DEQ Director Mike Abraczinskas talked briefly to guests about the engineering side of the Chemours investigation.
Gray’s Creek resident Mike Watters challenged the numbers being put forth by Chemours on the pilot study being conducted to determine the effectiveness of granulated carbon filters.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing email@example.com.