It has just been discovered, through researchers at N.C. State University, that GenX levels in the Cape Fear River were actually much higher than what was thought. In addition, several chemicals in the PFAS class were found at extreme numbers, whose affect on human health is completely unknown. As we have discussed before, GenX is a byproduct of these PFAS chemicals.
Retesting Chemical Levels
A recent article from The News & Observer, “NC State-led study shows Cape Fear River had ‘incredibly high’ levels of chemicals”, reports that at N.C. State University environmental engineer Detlef Knappe made this new discovery when retesting water samples from the Cape Fear River from 2014 and 2015. New technology made it possible to detect concentrations of specific compounds that were not identifiable before, such as 10 new per- and polyfluoroalkyl ether acids.
The first sample was from the Huske Dam in 2014, which is close to where Chemours dumped waste. The new testing showed PFAS levels to be about 990,000 ppt. The second sample was from the Lock and Dam No.1, which is about 70 miles from Chemours and where much of Wilmington gets their drinking water from. The new testing showed PFAS levels there to be about 130,000 ppt. The recent WECT article, “Total PFAS concentration in Cape Fear River before 2017 nearly 1,000 times more than “health goal” level of GenX, study shows” , informs that state regulators set a “health goal” for the levels of these chemicals described as, “the concentration at which no adverse non cancer health effects would be anticipated in the most sensitive population over an entire lifetime of exposure.” For GenX levels, the “health goal” is 140 ppt.
So, what do these numbers mean? Knappe says this means that the 2015 sample is representative of the amount of GenX and PFAS chemicals that were actually in the drinking water for residents of Wilmington for nearly 40 years until the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality suspended Chemours’ permit to discharge in 2017. This also means that the PFAS levels were almost 1,000 more than the “health goal”.
Effects of PFAS Chemicals
The chemicals that Knappe’s lab tested for when re-analyzing the water samples are not included in the EPA’s standard PFAS analysis. These are the ether acids, PFMOAA, PFO2HxA and PFO3OA, and a few others.
According to the News & Observer article, GenX concentration levels were found to be at 25.2 ppt at the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority in September. However, PFAS concentration levels were at 244.4 ppt and the three ether acids PFMOAA, PFO2HxA and PFO3OA made up 96.3 ppt of that concentration.
The affects of PFAS chemicals on human health are unknown, but there is some scientific input from the News & Observer article:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says exposure may affect growth in infants and children, interfere with hormones and increase the risk of certain cancers. Scientists studying PFAS chemicals have discovered impacts to the liver, pancreas and thyroid.
Emily Donovan, a cofounder of community watchdog group Clean Cape Fear, is pushing for greater funds from the N.C. General Assembly for health studies and for the Department of Health and Human Services to revisit cancer incident studies.
State officials are pushing Chemours to lessen its air emissions, one of the reasons being that it has contaminated the groundwater. Refer to our previous article, “GenX Levels in Water: Is the Cape Fear River Region Still at Risk?”, to learn more about the groundwater contamination.
The WECT article shares additional information on the groundwater contamination:
‘Regulators have stated that highly contaminated groundwater at the Fayetteville Works could be migrating to the river,’ the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority said in a release. ‘Researchers also believe PFAS likely is in river sediment downstream from the plant.’
On a positive note, representatives from Chemours share that:
Chemours remains committed to reducing PFAS emissions from our Fayetteville manufacturing facility by 99% or greater. We are on track to achieve a 99% reduction of air emissions of PFAS by the end of 2019.
We will continue to observe the GenX situation and deliver information on any new findings or resolutions. To learn more about the background and specifics of GenX, you can visit our law firm’s website pages:
- GenX Cancers Overview
- Summary of Information
- Timeline: GenX Contamination of the Cape Fear River
- Timeline: GenX Study Results
- GenX: Cancer Evaluation Form
Written by: Laura Beasley, Legal Assistant
Law Offices of Thomas J. Lamb, P.A.