Public demands answers on GenX from NC lawmakers

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WNCN) – The public wanted answers from North Carolina lawmakers who were meeting Wednesday in Wilmington.

They want to know if their drinking water is safe and how a company, Chemours, was able to discharge an unregulated chemical compound, GenX, downstream into the Cape Fear River for decades.

Dozens of people spoke before the General Assembly’s Environmental Review Commission.

“We’re concerned right now,” said Marvin Sparrow, who attended the meeting. “I really don’t know what the problems are with these chemicals. But I think no one is paying attention. No one is trying to find out.”

While a representative of Chemours was invited to attend the hearing, no one showed.

Chemours is a chemical manufacturer that disclosed to the state this summer that it discharged Gen X into the Cape Fear River near the Cumberland-Bladen County line with GenX flowing toward Wilmington. The state says the company has done so since the 1980’s.

GenX is used to make Teflon.

“The bad actors are the people who are putting these chemicals in the water,” said Sen. Michael Lee, (R) New Hanover County.

“GenX is a wakeup call,” Erin Carey, a Wilmington resident, told the committee. “It’s one that should remind us how important it is to protect our water.”

One of the questions before state lawmakers is how much funding should go to the GenX issue.

“It is $2.5 million in a $23 billion budget that has a rainy day fund,” said Rep. Deb Butler, (D) New Hanover County. “It’s raining in Wilmington and we need that appropriation.”

Republican state senators have asked Governor Roy Cooper when his administration found out about the GenX discharge.

Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Michael Regan told CBS North Carolina his office found out in June and then demanded Chemours stop the discharge.

People from the area said they are asking questions, too, but urged lawmakers to leave politics at the door.

“We need to get ahead of this issue and not drag our feet,” said Harper Peterson, former Wilmington mayor.
There also is a federal investigation ongoing about the GenX discharge from Chemours.

DEQ has provided records and documents to a grand jury in Wilmington regarding Chemours’ Fayetteville facility.

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