The Cape Fear River is expansive, fast-moving in places and takes lots of twists and turns. At 200-miles long, it touches many communities and can be unwieldy and dangerous. The 2.75-million-year-old river is often downright mysterious.
Much the same can be said of the ongoing GenX controversy, which has dominated local headlines and conversations since June when the unregulated chemical compound not only was in the river, but also in the water some of us drink.
Since then, the situation has only gotten bigger and, frankly, remains difficult to fully grasp. The original story of Genx and the Lower Cape Fear region now includes additional unregulated chemicals in the river and also in wells and groundwater in Bladen and Cumberland counties.
At a legislative committee meeting in Raleigh recently, N.C. State scientist Dr. Detlef Knappe was asked why the focus was on GenX when other chemicals were found in the river at higher occurrences. Knappe’s reply was simple — it’s the chemical we know how to measure and the one we have toxicity data for.
That’s another way of saying we don’t know much at all about the other chemicals that have been discovered in the Cape Fear, the source of the water most of us drink. And we still know very little about possible harmful effects of GenX. We do know enough about similar perfluorinated chemicals to be very concerned and cautious.
Regardless of the health impact and where we go from here, the bottom line is this: Chemours has been putting chemicals into the Cape Fear River that are not allowed under its state discharge permit.
As we said, just like the river, the GenX situation is expansive and unwieldy. As we’ve tried to navigate it and understand it, we’ve often not been sure where even to start. There are a host of important issues in play, and we still have a very incomplete map.
Rep. Ted Davis, chair of an N.C. House special committee on river quality, agrees:
“I want so hard to get a grasp on it, and it just gets bigger and bigger,” WRAL-TV quoted Davis as saying.
The most important objective right now, we believe, is that Chemours stops discharging any substances into the river not allowed by its permit.
The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality believes the DuPont spinoff has stopped/is stopping the discharge of GenX and other fluorinated compounds into the river, along with other substances called Nafion byproducts.
That is only a first step, but it’s an important one.
The Division of Water Resources now must aggressively monitor discharge areas and ensure compliance. But Chemours is just one of thousands of entities in the state with discharge permits that have to be monitored. There is currently a backlog of more than 200 permits for major facilities that discharge wastewater into our rivers.
That is why we continue to strongly criticize the legislature for not approving Gov. Roy Cooper’s very reasonable — and very needed — request for extra money to adequately fund this vital and overburdened part of our state government.
Republican legislators have insisted that they won’t “throw money” at the problem — whatever that means. Sometimes a lack of money and resources is exactly what is causing the problem, or at least allowing it to worsen. If Republicans want to shrink government regulations, we wish they would wield the axe in areas other than water safety.
Once again, this is a big and complex issue. There is still much to be learned and much to be done. Getting the discharge of these chemicals stopped — and ensuring they remain stopped — is a critical step, but should be a relatively easy step.
By refusing to adequately fund the one agency that is specifically charged with safeguarding our rivers, the legislature is intentionally putting thousands of North Carolinians at risk.
That is absolutely unacceptable — and we need to let our lawmakers know it.
— The StarNews of Wilmington
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“You are what you do, not what you say you will do.” (Unknown)