Tests show GenX in county wells

By: Scott Bigelow - Staff writer

ST. PAULS — Low levels of GenX and C8 were found in nearly every well tested during the first round of testing for chemical contaminants in private wells in Robeson County near the Chemours chemical facility.

The Robeson County Health Department tested 27 wells, and 25 tested positive for GenX, C8 or both. However, the concentrations of the chemicals are within federal and state guidelines for safe drinking water.

That contaminants from Chemours, located just across the Robeson County line in Bladen County, have seeped into so many wells surprised Health Department Director Bill Smith.

“The well with the highest GenX amount was 41.8 parts per trillion, and none of the tests exceeded 140 ppt, which is the safe limit set by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, or 70 ppt which is the limit set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency,” Smith said in an email Tuesday.

Chemours, formerly owned by DuPont, has been generating and discharging GenX and C8 into the Cape Fear River and into the air for many years. In June 2017, a North Carolina State University scientist alerted the lower Cape Fear region of elevated levels of GenX in its drinking water.

The North Carolina Division of Environmental Quality began testing shallow wells around the plant in late fall of 2017. Because the Lumber River Basin reaches to within about one mile of the plant, the Robeson County Health Department used local money to test private wells in the county.

GenX is the common name for perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, or PFOS, and C8 is the common name for perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA. This family of chemicals is used in the manufacture of Teflon, Scotchgard and other products.

“Letters were sent to the homeowners this week,” Smith said. “We will be testing surface water next week and a few wells in the Prestage Foods area to finish up our planned 48 samples.”

The Health Department letter states that well water with the presence of C8 and GenX in the tested samples is suitable for drinking, cooking, preparing baby formula, bathing, washing dishes and doing laundry.

“It’s safe, but I’d be on public water if it is available,” Smith said. “Some of the tested areas have county water available to them.”

The second round of testing begins Tuesday. The tests will cost the county $250 per sample and $12,000 total.

So far, 27 private wells used for drinking were tested on Jan. 23 and Feb. 13. Twenty-five of the 27 wells tested had GenX contaminants. Twenty-one had C8 contaminants.

The well with highest GenX amount was on Weathervane Road. The areas tested were Weathervane, Whirlwind, Marion, Shaw Mill, Donna and Britt roads northeast of St. Pauls and on the south side of N.C. 87 where the Chemours plant is located along the Cape Fear River.

Tests closer to the Chemours Plant and tests of Wilmington’s drinking water showed levels higher than state and federal standards. Testing expanded beyond one mile of the plant in late 2017 and has included surface water.

A sample of honey from the affected area also tested high for GenX, leading some to speculate that the chemical may also affect gardens and crops grown near the plant.

“We might be testing tomatoes next,” Smith said.

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Levels within safe-drinking guidelines

Scott Bigelow

Staff writer

Reach Scott Bigelow at 910-644-4497 or [email protected]

Reach Scott Bigelow at 910-644-4497 or [email protected]