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GenX Issue Makes National Headlines Days Before Community Forum

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Jun 27, 2017
GenX made headlines on CBS this week, placing Wilmington’s water quality issue in the national spotlight.

On Monday, Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo appeared on CBS This Morning in a national report on GenX and the community’s response during a June 20 city council meeting. The appearance came about three weeks after StarNews reported GenX, an unregulated emerging compound, was found in trace amounts in the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority’s water supply during an N.C. State University study in 2013-14.

A community forum on GenX, hosted by StarNews, WWAY and WHQR NEWS 91.3, is scheduled for Wednesday.

The unregulated compound in the Cape Fear River has raised public health concerns. But according to a statement released by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, "the GenX levels detected in 2013-14 would be expected to pose a low risk to human health."
 
The source of the chemical has been tied to a byproduct of The Chemours Company’s Fayetteville plant about 70 miles north of the Cape Fear River. Chemours has since announced that it will “capture, remove, and safely dispose of wastewater that contains the byproduct GenX” that’s generated at the site.

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) is currently investigating the issue and conducting water sampling along Cape Fear River.

“Our objective is to determine the current concentration of GenX in the lower Cape Fear, and in partnership with DHHS, better characterize any potential health risk associated with that concentration. The potential health risk will help guide next steps in the process,” NCDEQ Public Information Officer Bridget Munger said in an email.

The Chemours Company permit, which expired in October, is up for renewal as part of the five-year permit cycle, however, the renewal is currently on hold pending results of the state’s investigation, she said. There are 19 major facilities located on the mainstem of the Cape Fear River that have a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System wastewater discharge permit, according to NCDEQ. Over half of those facilities are municipal wastewater treatment plants.

The GenX Forum will take place 7 to 9 p.m. at the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Kenan Auditorium. Doors open at 6 p.m. and tickets are free.

According to the StarNews report on the forum, there are 13 panelists who have committed to attending, including CFPUA Chairman Mike Brown and CFPUA Executive Director Jim Flechtner, UNCW Marine biologist Larry Cahoon, Saffo and Sheila Holman, assistant secretary for the environment with the NCDEQ.
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