Questions swirl around GenX in NC drinking water


WILMINGTON, N.C. (WNCN) – Scientists who’ve been studying the release of GenX in to the Cape Fear River say they still have a lot to learn about its potential impacts on human health.

“There are many compounds in the water that we drink. Many of these compounds have not been tested. We make assumptions about their safety, but we don’t really know do we? And, that’s the scary part,” said Dr. Jamie DeWitt, associate professor in the pharmacology and toxicology department at East Carolina University.

Researchers at NC State’s Center for Human Health and the Environment said Wednesday they’re trying to get a grant from the National Institutes of Health to expedite studying the effects on people. The study would include a few hundred people initially.

A panel of scientists spoke during a forum at Cape Fear Community College hosted by Clean Cape Fear.

Gov. Roy Cooper has called on the SBI to look at whether a criminal investigation is warranted after the state revealed that Chemours, a chemical manufacturer, discharged Gen X, an unregulated compound, into the Cape Fear River near the Cumberland-Bladen County line with GenX flowing toward Wilmington.

The state told the company to stop the discharge.

CBS North Carolina asked Chemours what research the company has done on GenX’s impacts on human health.

A spokesman responded with the same statement the company released Tuesday. “We continue to work closely with local, state and federal officials to determine the appropriate next steps,” wrote Gary Cambre in an email.

Since learning about the situation last month, many residents have been frustrated no one told them about this sooner. The compound has been discharged as a byproduct since 1980.

“Why would the public officials and why would the chemical companies not make this information more readily available?” asked Leland resident Keith Buckindail.

Clean Cape Fear is calling on Chemours to “make a public commitment to permanently end the discharge of GenX and other hazardous chemicals” into the river.

“Because in this void of uncertainty, we shouldn’t be wondering if the water we’re providing ourselves is clean, and we shouldn’t have one part of the community saying it’s not, one part of the community saying it is,” said the group’s co-founder Emily Donovan. “I want the most done. I want it for my family. I want it for my children who are growing up on this water. And, I want it for all the community that’s vulnerable and voiceless right now.”

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