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GenX: Chemours Neighbors Demand Answers

Vince Winkel
WHQR Public Radio
Journalist Lisa Sorg listens as (l. to r.) Elsie Dew, James Dew and Amanda Dew discuss their contaminated wells and lake.

Residents who live near Chemours’ Bladen County plant are angry.  North Carolina state officials held their fourth community meeting last week at Bladen Community College in Dublin.  More than 150 people showed up.   

“Every day of our life, we have to go to a water meeting, and ask you all questions? How much is in the air, how much in the water. Go to the plant and tell DuPont to tell their families to drink the water and eat the gardens and the food. Tell them to ------  eat it, that’s what I got to say about the bull----.” 

“If doctors don’t know how to treat you or test you for GenX, how do you know if any of us died from cancer from GenX around our community. How do we know that?”

One by one, residents from Bladen and Cumberland counties told officials from the Department of Environmental Quality and Health and Human Services about their concerns.

“My name is James Dew and I live in Gray’s Creek. Within a half mile of the DuPont, Chemours plant. Our well was over 700 (ppt), our lake is over 900, you don’t know, and you ain’t going to get anything from Chemours.”

“I’d love to hear them say they are going to shut them down. But I know that’s an impossibility with all our state legislators.”

His wife, Elsie Dew.

“So yeah we’re real concerned about our family. And we’ve had so many dogs that have died with lumps from cancer. And we know it’s because they have been drinking the water. We’ve had four of our own, plus neighbors.”

Chemours neighbor Kellie Hair.

“My main concern is what they are putting in the air. I live directly across from Chemours plant, not even less than a mile. And they are stating that it’s okay for us to have a little bit of GenX in our water. We raise stuff in our garden. We have cows, and they’re saying everything’s okay. Really?”

Mike Abraczinskas is the Air Quality Director for the DEQ.

“We know there have been air emissions from Chemours. They are estimated emissions from Chemours. So one of the first things we’re working on is to verify via measurements what the actual emissions are at Chemours.”

Chemours is doing the testing. But can you trust Chemours?

“That’s a great question. And one of the things we requested they do – required that they do during the stack testing is they split the sample. So not only the samples are being taken and analyzed by their vendor by their contractor, but it’s being split and the other half of the sample is being sent to USEPA’s labs for an independent analysis.”

DEQ Water Quality Director Linda Culpepper.

“Absolutely we are making progress. We have been very successful in eliminating the discharge of the manufacturing wastewater from our water systems, and that’s been a tremendous gain for the state to prevent this material from getting into the Cape Fear River. That’s been our focus, on prevention.”

According to Michael Scott, Director of the DEQ’s Division of Waste Management, wells within about 2½ miles of the Chemours plant in Bladen County are now being tested for GenX. He says state officials plan to keep testing wells until they find the edge of the contaminated area. Contaminants in the water, and the air. Air Quality Director Mike Abraczinskas.

“First we’re running computer models to try and estimate how much the air emissions are drifting downwind and then depositing on surfaces possibly through rain or dry processes.  The second way we’re taking a look at this is to collect rainwater through a rainwater sampling campaign.  We hope that soon we’ll have some data about the amount of GenX that may be in rainwater just nearby the site.”

No Chemours representatives attended the meeting.