Tens of thousands of unwitting North Carolina residents might have been ingesting a potentially cancer-causing chemical manufactured by a DuPont subsidiary for nearly four decades — but even the mayor of the most heavily-populated city nearby has not been told the whole story.
“We were alarmed. And we want to know how long that compound or that chemical had been dispersed into the Cape Fear River. And they told us since 1980,” Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo told CBS News after meeting with officials from DuPont offshoot, Chemours.
Chemours and its parent company produce GenX as a byproduct of chemical manufacturing just outside Fayetteville on the Cape Fear River — upstream from the drinking water intake of some 60,000 residents of Wilmington.
Indeed, the composition of GenX makes it difficult to separate from water — meaning any contamination could be a Herculean task to clean.
To discern whether the dangerous chemical tainted the river and water supply, the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority co-authored a three-year study on the topic, yet no one — not the mayor responsible for an entire city’s health and safety, much less the public — has been made privy to the findings.
Furious residents packed a city council meeting last week past capacity, CBS reports, railing against the secreted findings of the study and lack of details concerning risks they may have faced — simply drinking their water for the past 37 years.
“Why has this been allowed to go on for so long?” lamented resident Kalli Smith of the still-murky news the Cape Fear River has been a GenX dumping ground to untold ramifications. “I have been drinking this water my entire life.”
A number of parents in the Wilmington area do not specifically peg Chemours’ contaminants responsible for rare cancers in their children — but without public disclosure of the extensive analysis, they’ve been left little recourse and too many unanswered questions.
“It just seems odd that we’re having to fight for clean water after we’ve fought for our children’s lives,” asserted Amy Herrman, whose son, Jacob, endured chemotherapy for three years to combat leukemia.
Lisa Grogan’s son, Nathan, faced a similar battle as Jacob, diagnosed at four with a rare kidney cancer called Wilms, and she affirmed seething doubts about the safety of Wilmington’s water, telling CBS,
“Because of what our kids have been through, I think it’s hard for people to look at us and say the water’s probably OK, or, there’s probably not too much toxin in there to cause health effects.”
Thanks to the so-called Environmental Protection Agency, an astoundingly unwise loophole could mean Chemours and DuPont did nothing legally untoward — without federal drinking water safety standards on the chemical, and because GenX is a byproduct substance and not a primary fabrication, mandates against tainting the river do not apply.
“There is a loophole that needs to be looked at by Congress to make certain that we have safe drinking water in this country,” Saffo opined.
CBS News reports:
“The long-term health effects of GenX on humans are unknown, but studies submitted to the EPA by DuPont between 2006 and 2013 show it caused tumors and reproductive problems in lab animals.
“The company says GenX is a safer alternative to another DuPont chemical called C8, which it no longer makes.
“DuPont was forced to pay the largest fine in EPA history — $16.5 million — for failing to report C8’s substantial risk to human health. And this past February, DuPont and Chemours doled out more than $670 million to settle a class-action lawsuit involving C8 water contamination in the Ohio River Valley.”
Not to worry — the government investigated contamination of the Cape Fear River and found nothing amiss. At least that’s what vice chair of the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, Jennifer Adams, essentially told the irate, distressed, and overflowing city council meeting when asked why the study had not been made public.
“There were no alarm bells set off,” Adams stated. “There wasn’t anything indicated in the report that indicated immediate action was needed.”
Trust her. Really.
Or, perhaps, don’t — considering CBS News found Adams has deep ties to none other than DuPont — where she worked as a chemical engineer from 1990 until 2001.
“Given your connection to DuPont,” CBS affiliate WWAY asked Adams, “do you know anybody that works at the Chemours plant?”
“Um, yes, I do,” she replied.
“Have there been any discussions between any board members including yourself and anyone at Chemours? Or DuPont?”
“No,” she answered.
According to CBS, water inspectors have now tested the levels of GenX in Wilmington’s water — but the results aren’t expected until next month.
In the meantime, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality claims Chemours has ceased dumping GenX into the Cape Fear River, instead diverting the byproduct into holding tanks — but that announcement appears somewhat dubious in language.
“My understanding is that they have successfully diverted the GenX wastewater into holding tanks, that will be disposed of at facilities off-site,” stated the DEQ’s Jamie Kritzer, adding,
“The first samples have been sent on to laboratories in Colorado and one in Research Triangle Park and we await the analysis that is being conducted by specialists at both of the labs, and then we will conduct our own analysis of the results.”
If you believe the company, Chemours says it has decided to voluntarily quit dumping its chemical soup in the North Carolina waterway, and it will now “capture, remove and safely dispose of” any errant GenX — the chemical the DuPont spinoff insists isn’t harmful to the public, anyway.
Image: Flickr/Gerry Dincher.
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Contributed by Claire Bernish of The Daily Sheeple.