GenX: Can We All Get Along

Aug 15, 2017

Tonight, UNCW’s Lumina Theater will play host to a panel discussion on GenX and the other unregulated chemical compounds in the area water supply. Speakers include Erin Brockovich and her colleague Robert Bowcock. Other panelists who had been slated for the event decided in the last few days not to participate.  

When the Facebook group “Stop GenX in our Water” first organized tonight’s forum, the panel included Professor Larry Cahoon of UNCW, Kemp Burdette of Clean Cape Fear and Cape Fear River Watch, and East Carolina University toxicologist Jamie Dewitt. That trio is no longer a part of tonight’s event.

The event is now billed as an evening with Erin Brockovich and Robert Bowcock.

“I’ve been willing to talk to anyone who has questions about the GenX issues, over the past couple of months, it’s part of being an educator.”

Larry Cahoon takes exception with what he says were derogatory remarks posted recently on social media by Robert Bowcock.

“What convinced me that I had to pull out of the panel is, several weeks ago unfortunately, posted some remarks on a Facebook page having to do with the GenX problem, and comments were disrespectful of Dr. Knappe at NC State, and really he is the hero here. And also made some negative and critical remarks about a local college professor. Overall I thought it was disrespectful and not at all helpful to be saying things like that about the scientists…”

“As a consequence of that I pulled out of participating in that panel, I don’t want my name associated with that sort of behavior.”

“We had invited other panelists and, they had declined.”

Beth Markesino is the founder of the Wilmington Stop GenX in our Water Facebook group. She organized tonight’s GenX discussion, and several other events this week while Erin Brockovich is in town.

“I think this week is going to be a powerful week for our communities. I think everyone is going to learn a lot, yeah, I really look forward to this week. Very much so.”

“And that’s what we need to do from here on out is move forward as a community, work together.”

‘Why do you think local scientists declined to be on this panel?’

“Oh. Well, I have my theories, but, it is their choosing, and I respect that. But I’m very excited for Erin and Bob to be here. Everybody has their own decisions that they have to make.

Brockovich was instrumental in building a case against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company of California in 1993. The case alleged contamination of drinking water with hexavalent chromium. Her successful lawsuit was the subject of a 2000 film, Erin Brockovich, which scored Julia Roberts an Academy Award in the lead role.

Her colleague Robert Bowcock is a water specialist and environmental investigator who has worked with dozens of communities and companies in sorting out water issues.

Bowcock says his remarks on Facebook were misunderstood.

“They are taking out of context from the perspective of one person, asks a particular question, in a certain context, and another person is, certainly in a Facebook or any social media chains, if you don’t take them and read them in context you read them backwards.”

Bowcock says any debate over water issues and technology, should happen in person.

“I don’t think social media is a place to debate that. But I will say that I do not believe any comments have been made about any other scientists, quite frankly I don’t know whom they are.”

Bowcock is referring to comments that he had insulted a second, Wilmington-based scientist in one of his social media posts.

Clean Cape Fear is an alliance that formed shortly after the water crisis began. They have hosted three of the five water forums held in the region so far.

CCF spokesperson Emily Donovan says the organization is thrilled Erin Brockovich is here to share her wisdom and shine a spotlight on the community. CCF is not involved in tonight’s forum.

Tonight's forum is at the Lumina Theater on the UNCW campus, starting at 6:30.