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GenX: But Can We Drink The Water ...

Vince Winkel

On Thursday representatives from Wilmington, the counties of Pender, Brunswick and New Hanover, the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, and the state’s department of environmental quality and department of health and human services, will meet behind closed doors with the Chemours Company. That’s the company behind GenX, a chemical reported to be in the region’s water supply. 

Can we drink the water? Is it safe? How much GenX is being discharged into the river?

Those are some of the questions that will be asked of Chemours officials at the midday meeting Thursday.

Finding answers isn’t easy.

According to N.C. State professor Detlef Knappe, who first discovered the substance in the water here in 2013, there’s no obligation for Chemours to inform a utility that you may find this chemical in your water…

He says since the chemical is new and isn’t regulated, it isn’t communicated to a public utility that the upstream discharge may contain it.

GenX is used to provide a slippery surface in products such as Teflon.

“The analysis for this is tough, it’s a difficult compound to isolate and characterize.”

Larry Cahoon is a professor and scientist at UNC Wilmington.

“It’s about 13 pounds per day in the river at the water intake for the city and Brunswick County. So, it’s not a trivial amount. And that works out to a couple of tons per year of just GenX. When you realize there are other compounds in there, you can multiply that four or five times. And those other compounds are unknown basically, and probably not listed on any permit.”

The meeting to discuss this chemical and what needs to happen next with local officials and the Chemours Company starts at 11:30 Thursday. It is by invitation only.