ST. PAULS — A second well located near St. Pauls has tested far higher than state and federal limits for contaminants, according to a Robeson County Health Department news release.
The well is located on Caulder Road and is about 3.5 miles from the Chemours chemical plant. It tested lower than the state limit of 140 parts per trillion for GenX or federal limit of 70 ppt. However, another related chemical contaminant, known as C8, was found at many times the safe level.
This chemical, formerly used in the manufacture of Teflon and other coatings, was tested at nearly 20 times the federal safe level. It was replaced in manufacturing by GenX.
“GenX was found to be below the state level, but the legacy contaminant was higher,” Health Department Director Bill Smith said. “This (legacy) chemical was manufactured by DuPont, and Chemours will not own this.”
The residence is a neighbor of the one other well in Robeson County that tested higher than 140 parts per trillion for GenX, according to the Health Department information.
The chemical plant is located off N.C. 87 at the Cumberland and Bladen county lines, about three miles from Robeson County and one mile from the Lumber River basin. Known as Fayetteville Works, it was owned by DuPont when C8 was manufactured there, and was spun off to Chemours in 2015.
GenX replaced C8 in 2009 around the time of a court judgment in the hundreds of millions of dollars against both companies for polluting Ohio River communities in Ohio and West Virginia. Production of C8 came to Fayetteville Works in 2002.
“The household is being requested to use bottled water from this point forward for drinking, cooking and preparing baby formula,” Smith said. “We were able to get Chemours to provide bottled water for a short time, but they say it is not their problem.”
Chemours is providing water to dozens of homeowners in Cumberland and Bladen counties as testing spreads out from the plant. The Robeson County Health Department began testing early this year as a precaution.
The department’s suspicions were realized, at least in part. The combined contamination of the second Caulder Road well was 1,739 ppt, “far in excess of the safe level,” Smith said.
A handful of tests will continue in Robeson County, but the Health Department is awaiting guidance from the state and the community, he said.
“The state is planning a community meeting late May or early June, which should help us determine what direction we will head in,” Smith said. “Future issues may include testing of fish, deer, gardens and livestock.”
The Health Department’s tests showed levels of GenX in ponds, swamps, shallow and deep wells, including one that draws water for Robeson County’s water system. Of the 34 wells tested in Robeson County, GenX was found in 30 and related contaminants found in 28.
GenX became news in the summer of 2017 when a NC State scientist reported levels in Wilmington’s drinking water higher than the state’s safe limit. Since then, the state Division of Environmental Quality has conducted tests.
The state has cut off discharges of GenX into the Cape Fear or other waterways, although several spills have been reported by Chemours. A plan to limit or eliminate airborne emissions is in the works.
“There is limited information about the health effects of GenX. Laboratory studies on animals show negative effects to the liver and blood, along with cancer of the liver, pancreas, and testicles. The relevance to human health is unknown. The potential human health effects of many other new or emerging PFAS are unknown,” according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
Staff writer Scott Bigelow can be reached at 910-644-4497 of [email protected]