On Thursday evening, a forum was held at Gray’s Creek Elementary School on the issue of GenX contamination in the Lower Cape Fear region. Representatives from the North Carolina Departments of Environmental Quality and Health and Human Services presented the latest information about the contamination. There were no officials from DuPont or Chemours at the forum.
There were about 200 local residents and property owners in attendance. People were understandably upset, angry, and fearful. There were dozens of questions asked, many of which have no definitive answers.
We had been previously told the level of GenX considered “safe” was 140 parts per trillion. That night I learned that two of the other chemical compounds DuPont manufacturers in Bladen County, PFOA AND PFOS, are even more dangerous and the levels considered safe are much lower at only 70 ppt. We also learned that these chemicals are not only in area surface waters and groundwater, but also in the air.
All three of these man-made chemicals have been proven to have negative health effects. Studies in humans show that exposure to these compounds can affect growth, learning, and behavior in infants and children; affect women’s ability to get pregnant; interfere with all of the body’s natural hormones; increase cholesterol levels; affect the immune system; and increase the risk of cancer.
There is no scientific proof that these chemicals are safe at the levels we have been told.
When the DEQ representative revealed the level of contamination discovered in the wells on the DuPont property, the crowd audibly gasped. Thirteen of the 14 wells there tested positive for GenX above the “safe” level. The levels ranged from 500 ppt to 61,000 ppt.
NCDEQ tested private residential wells within 1.5 miles of Dupont’s wells. Not all test results are finished, but so far 26 wells have been found to contain unsafe levels of GenX, meaning the water is definitely unsafe for drinking, cooking, and brushing teeth. These homes have been told to use bottled water until a permanent solution can be found. Two residences in Bladen County had results well over 400 ppt. Two others had levels so high that they were not even given a number until the tests are repeated to verify them. Others are still awaiting test results.
For too long citizens in my area of Bladen County have felt ignored by our county officials except to bill us for taxes, ask for our votes once every election cycle, and find a place to locate a chemical plant and hog slaughtering operation. Now is the time for our county administrators and elected officials to step up and make dealing with this danger a priority.