Honey, We Have a Problem
Several members of Clean Cape Fear attended the state's Science Advisory Board meeting December 4, where many were wow-ed by the credentials, questions and comments of the members of newly-appointed board.
But the news that garnered the most dramatic gasp from attendees came from NC Department of Environmental Quality's Assistant Secretary Sheila Holman when she said that Gel Labs found GenX at a concentration of 2,070 parts per trillion in a sample of honey taken from a farmer's Pages Lakes Road home, which lies northeast of the Fayetteville Works plant. Recall, the health goal set by the NC Department of Health and Human Services is 140 ppt (the accuracy of which was questioned for quite some time by members of the board due to its calculation's reliance on too many arbitrary factors). Scientists are evaluating the sample and the results and more details are forthcoming.
What else did we learn?
DEQ hopes to have Nafion results published by mid-December:
Nafion byproducts 1 and 2 have likely been discharged into the river since manufacturing of Nafion began at the plant in 1977; Nafion is, according to toxicologist Jaime DeWitt, likely more toxic than GenX, and was found in the river at much higher concentrations than GenX or the other perfluorinated compounds that are associated with the GenX processes (the manufacturing of vinyl ether products and the manufacturing of GenX itself).
DEQ is looking into Willis Creek to determine if there is a discharge point at that creek that might explain some of the upstream contamination:
If there is no discharge there, it is likely that all contamination upstream of the facility is due to air emissions. DEQ has compiled some preliminary information about air emissions - click HERE.
DEQ continues weekly sampling to include two composite samples onsite at the facility Monday through Thursday and Friday through Sunday and weekly at finished drinking water facilities in the lower Cape Rear.
Some results we were reminded of: private wells tested around the plant have been contaminated at levels up to a walloping 61,000 ppt; and surface water samples were collected at Camp Dixie in Bladen County and Marshwood Lake In Cumberland County, showing GenX levels of 620 ppt and 915 ppt respectively; Marshwood Lake is upstream of the plant. To review all data published by DEQ so far, click HERE.
According to Chemours, it released through air emissions 500-669 pounds per year of C3 dimer acid fluoride (which becomes GenX when it reacts with certain molecules) from 2012-2016; DEQ will begin testing stacks at the plant late December:
Clean Cape Fear asked Asst. Secretary Holman about testing for Nafion emissions and she said she would look into it and get back to us.
DEQ is able to use the EPAs 'practical quantitation limit' of 10 parts per trillion as a limit for groundwater contamination due to a state rule (a reminder about how important state environmental laws are and how vital it is to have a fully-funded, fully-staffed agency -- DEQ -- that has the authority to enforce these rules):
This is what allowed DEQ to issue the Notice of Violation to Chemours on groundwater contamination after the October chemical spill at the plant (which they did not report until questioned about); civil penalty pending.
DEQ is conducting soil sampling at the facility and results will determine whether or not they should expand sample area to offsite. They will also seek to find out if soil contamination could impact groundwater through leaching.
Scientists in the Netherlands published a paper which includes data on soil and plant contamination from GenX - link to our Science page for more information.
DEQ is planning to hold public hearings on the new NPDES permit once a draft has been created - one in Wilmington and one near the Chemours facility.
SAB Chair Jamie Bartram, PhD asked why the GenX level never went down to zero (before the spill which raised levels dramatically), but seemed to stop decreasing at a certain level; he wondered if this was due to ongoing air contamination or some sort of GenX resevoir:
The answer is unknown at this time.
DEQ will begin testing fish and will have a meeting with UNCW on Monday Dec. 11 to discuss.
The DHHS health advisory goal was ascertained using limited data on studies conducted by DuPont/Chemours on rats and mice; due to Confidential Business Information (CBI) laws the company claims it does not have to release the full reports.
SAB member Elaina Kenyon, PhD asked if DHHS could collect health records of citizens who have been drinking the water for a certain number of years:
DHHS said their agency does not conduct epidemiological research; however once research is conducted, they work to evaluate it, determine health risks and communicate to the public. An epidemiological study would have to be performed using state, federal, university or grant funding and would likely be conducted by a university.