UNCW Professor Roger Shew has compiled a comprehensive Q and A (last update: July 17, 2017)
to view/download a pdf, click HERE
to view a slideshow, click HERE

Note: While Prof. Shew is associated with UNCW, this content is attributable to Roger Shew alone and not the university. 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Where is my water coming from? 

Your water comes from one of two sources:  the Cape Fear River or ground water (i.e. wells, aquifers, etc.).  The Lower Cape Fear Water & Sewer Authority (WSA) provides raw water from the Cape Fear River to the following counties: Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover, and Pender counties.  Lower Cape Fear WSA is downstream from Chemours, therefore GenX, and the other "cocktail" of toxins, detected in the tap water in Wilmington would also be present in the tap water of all Lower Cape Fear WSA recipients.

Each county that receives river water from Lower Cape Fear WSA then converts this raw water into drinking water at a regional treatment plant.  Remember, NOT ALL local treatment plants process Cape Fear River water.  The best way to find out if you have ground or river water is to call the number listed on your water bill.

Brunswick County Residents:

New Hanover County Residents:

Click the link below: If the address is shown in green, the home is serviced by the Michael Richardson Nanofiltration Plant, which takes water from various groundwater sources. If the address is shown in blue, the home is serviced by the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant, which takes water from the Cape Fear River. If the home is shown in beige, the address is not in CFPUA’s service area and we recommend contacting the number listed on your water bill to find out the source of your water. 

Home Water Source Finder Tool


Is my water safe to drink? 

When the public first learned about GenX in our tap water the NC Department of Health and Human Services issued the following statement:  

"There are no U.S. regulatory guideline levels for GenX. However, as part of the European chemical registration, a 2-year chronic toxicity and cancer study with rats was performed. They reported a Derived No Effect Level (DNEL) of 0.01 mg/kg bw/day. Based on U.S. risk assessment calculations, this corresponds to a concentration in drinking water of 70,909 ng/L of GenX- more than 100 times greater than the mean value of 631 ng/L detected in the Cape Fear River. Based upon these data, the GenX levels detected in 2013-2014 would be expected to pose a low risk to human health.Read the full statement here.

UPDATE TO DHHS Risk Assessment - July 14, 2017:  

AFTER CLEAN CAPE FEAR SUBMITTED QUESTIONS TO DHHS asking them how they got their safe level number, (70,909 ppt), DHHS announces STEEP drop to 140 ppt, based on "newly discovered" data; DEQ and DHHS joint press release (parts of which were picked up by most local and some national news outlets) at: https://www.ncdhhs.gov/news/press-releases/joint-deq-dhhs-release-state-releases-first-water-quality-data-updated-health.  DHHS Q and A on updated Risk Assessment HERE

TEST RESULTS RELEASED JULY 14: Early results from all 13 test sites can be found on the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s GenX website - HERE; A document showing the results in a spreadsheet is HERE 

GenX (known as C6 because it has 6 carbons) has limited-to-no peer reviewed data.  Meaning, we truly have no idea how it will affect the health of those steadily ingesting it.  

Scientists have shared with us that, while more testing is needed, due to the chemical make-up of GenX, it is likely an endocrine disruptor.  We partnered with Dr. David Hill on a public service announcement to pregnant and nursing mothers:

"I get a little anxious when I hear endocrine disruptor.  I would advise pregnant and nursing mothers to avoid tap water until the contamination has stopped." - Dr. Hill, pediatrician at KidzCare Pediatrics. 

There are NO standards set for GenX by the Environmental Protection Agency, the World Health Organization or our state and local regulators. 

GenX is a very close cousin to PFOS and PFOA toxins (like C8 - the chemical GenX was manufactured to replace after numerous lawsuits and human health atrocities across our country let to its demise). The EPA lifetime health advisory level for PFOS and PFOA toxins is 70 parts per trillion.  The highest level of GenX tested from 2013 to 2014 was 4,500 parts per trillion; the average amount found was 631 parts per trillion.

Furthermore, the researchers who discovered GenX - and whose published findings led to the discovery of this issue by our local media - also found 6 other UNREGULATED man-made chemicals in our river, in much HIGHER concentrations than GenX. This concerns members of the scientific community.

Is your water safe to drink?  Since there are no regulations and no research, it seems that multi-billion dollar industries and our federal and state government are using you as guinea pigs to determine the answer to that question. 

See Question below: "What are Nafion Byproducts 1 & 2?"

What is GenX?

GenX is a trade name for a chemical that began being manufactured in 2009 as an alternative to C8 - a perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) - in order to produce PTFE (most notably Teflon). It is used to manufacture non-stick pans, firefighting foam, and stain-resistant fabrics.  

GenX is also a byproduct in the production of vinyl ether - a product also being manufacturing at the Chemours Fayetteville plant.  Chemours was required to capture 99% of GenX in the manufacturing of PTFE (Teflon), BUT, the plant has been discharging GenX in the river since 1980 as a "byproduct" of the vinyl ether process; they claim this was legal.  

GenX is a very close cousin to PFOA and PFOS toxins (like C8)- toxins which led to numerous lawsuits and public health atrocities across our country.  According to the EPA, PFOA/PFOS "exposure may result in developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy or to breastfed infants (e.g., low birth weight, accelerated puberty, skeletal variations), cancer (e.g., testicular, kidney), liver effects (e.g., tissue damage), immune effects (e.g., antibody production and immunity), thyroid effects and other effects (e.g., cholesterol changes)." 

DuPont describes GenX as being easier for humans to eliminate than C8 and with a “favorable toxicological profile."   However, it is on the EPA's list of "Emerging Contaminants" - therefore it is not regulated and neither the industry nor our state (DEQ) or federal (EPA) regulators are required to conduct water quality tests for it.  It is difficult for scientists to gain funding to find it in our water supplies, or to study its adverse affects to human health.  The few health studies available on GenX were conducted by the industry itself, and indicate similar adverse affects to lab rats that were found in studies on C8.  There are no studies on its effects on humans. 

Scientists believe that due to the chemical make-up of GenX  - it is an endocrine disruptor. Per the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, "Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife."

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Scientists are also concerned that GenX bioaccumulates. Some scientists are looking to find ways to determine if these compounds are in humans and top predators like catfish in the Cape Fear River. There are several suggestions regarding bioaccumulation; here is a statement from just one paper: “When released to the environment, these poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) can lead to soil and groundwater contamination and subsequent public health concerns due to their persistent and bioaccumlative nature”  and “Moreover, PFOS-like chemicals have been recently detected in AFFF-exposed firefighters, raising questions about the bioaccumulation of PFOS-like PFASs concerns due to their persistent and bioaccumulative nature.”

What is CFPUA?

 

The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority was created in 2008 pursuant to N.C.G.S. 162A. As desired by both New Hanover County and the City of Wilmington, the Authority took ownership of the water and sewer systems and assets of each to become a "Public Utility Authority" in the State of North Carolina. 

Through its operations, the Authority establishes ordinances, user rates, and other charges which are sufficient for the Authority to operate and maintain its utility systems on a financially self-sustaining basis and to assure continued and uninterrupted service.

The Authority is governed by the CFPUA Board of Directors, consisting of eleven members. Both the City of Wilmington and New Hanover County appoint five members each, including two elected officials from each body, and an eleventh member is jointly appointed. The term for appointees is three years. Applications to serve are made through Clerk's offices of the City and County.

Their mission, according to their website, is "... to provide high quality water and sewer service in an environmentally responsible manner while maintaining the lowest practicable cost."

  • CFPUA Board Chairman Mike Brown is now posting two updates daily to their website
  • To view CFPUA's flow chart for water treatment, click HERE
  • For contacts at the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant - click HERE
  • To view the list and bios of CFPUA board members, board meeting dates and times, meeting minutes, public comment guidelines and more, click HERE
 

What is the state doing about GenX? 

 

Does Reverse Osmosis Work to Filter GenX?

 

 

 

Governor Cooper held a press conference in Wilmington July 24; here is a list of actions by the state he announced at that time. 

See our TIMELINES FOR MORE INFORMATION

 

The scientists who have commented on this have said RO "should" work to filter GenX due to the chemical make-up of the compound and RO's ability to filter out much smaller molecules.  As scientists, they obviously can't say for certain that it WILL filter it, because the science is just not available yet.  

It's time to put pressure on industry to pay for filtering dangerous chemicals BEFORE they hit our water supply & to ensure EPA and DEQ have enough funding and staff to monitor industry to that regard.  These industries have plenty of money to pay for filters; it should not fall on consumers to filter out their dirty, dangerous chemicals while they continue to reap profits. 

 

On August 31, DEQ released a report from the EPA notifying the public that while levels of GenX and 3 other compounds relating to Teflon and Vinyl Ether processing have gone down; two new compounds, likely used by Chemours to produce Nafion, are in the Cape Fear River and levels are NOT dropping. Little is known about these compounds, but Dr. Detlaf Knappe said they appear to have 7 carbons, unlike GenX, which has 6. More carbon can indicator higher levels of toxicity.

There is no health advisory level set for these and no regulatory limits on them. 

No science has yet been done to determine what, if any filtration method works against them. 

We are awaiting word from scientists about the levels of these compounds in the drinking water supply. 

 

What are Nafion Byproducts 1 and 2?