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Commissioners and residents seeking answers about GenX in Bladen County

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Bladen County Board of Commissioners hear more concerns about GenX, Chemours, and the North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

Staff Report

Residents in the northern part of Bladen County are concerned about their water quality and with good reason. Commissioners heard emotional concerns from citizens at their last board meeting in Bladen County.

Residential wells are being impacted by the chemical GenX and officials with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) as well as Bladen County officials and Chemours representatives are working to find a way to provide clean drinking to those residents

“The residents, and the state want and need answers. Myself and the rest of the board don’t know anything,” said Bladen County Board of Commissioner’s Vice Chairman Ray Britt. 

Britt reported the room on Monday evening was packed for the Board of Commissioner’s meeting. Residents in attendance were demanding answers according to Britt. Chairman of the Board of Commissioners, Charles Ray Peterson was unable to attend due to an emergency.

When confronted with the questions, Britt explained he and other board members did not know any answers. He repeated adamantly, “We are being told absolutely nothing!”

Britt stated he had received some articles which were sent to him by Mike Watters after the Monday meeting. Watters lives in Cumberland County about one mile from the Chemours Fayetteville Works plant.  The information Watters shared had reports from GEL Laboratories with details about the water quality. 

According to Bladen County Manager Greg Martin, the Board of Commissioners heard from officials at last week’s board meeting regarding the GenX contamination. Martin said, currently, Chemours is reviewing the possible methods for providing residents with contaminated wells clean drinking water. There are three possible options being reviewed at this time.  The options include drilling deeper residential wells; issuing carbon filtration systems to those residents with contaminated wells; and the third option is to contract with Bladen County and/or PWC in Fayetteville to extend water lines to those residents. 

Martin said all of the options are still being discussed. “Chemours is still in the process of exploring which option they are going to pursue,” said Martin. 

He added, if the company chooses to request the county to extend public water lines to the impacted residents, it could potentially take as much as 6 to 8 months to complete. Martin said the company is also continuing to extend the area where residential wells are being tested. He said the test results are still showing residential wells with GenX levels above 140 parts per million.

Martin said one theory on how the residential wells are being contaminated is that the GenX is being released through the stack, and becomes airborne before falling onto the ground and eventually seeping into the ground water. He explained that is why it is showing up at the county’s Live Oak and Tobermory wells. 

Vice Chair of the Board of Commissioners, Ray Britt, said the board wants and needs answers. “We can only tell what we are being told and we are being told absolutely nothing,” Ray Britt said again.

Commissioner Britt stated, when he first joined the board, one of the first votes taken by the board was to extend county water to more than 200 residents through the Phase IV Water Project. At the Commissioners’ meeting in March 2017, the Phase IV Water Project was estimated to $6.5 million and was funded by a $1 million grant from USDA and a loan in the amount of $5 million also from USDA. Commissioner Britt mused whether or not it would be possible for the board to convert the funds the Commissioners previously committed to that project to assist the people who are dealing with this disaster.

GEL Laboratories of Charleston, SC has been testing water samples sent to them for the presence of GenX, according to state officials. Britt said he had not received any reports or information at the time of Monday’s commissioner’s meeting. 

On Wednesday, Nov. 22, DEQ issued a statement saying that water samples collected near the Chemours outfall pipe during the period of Oct. 27 through Oct. 30, show concentrations of GenX were 2,400 parts per trillion and samples collected from the period of Oct. 31 through Nov. 2 indicate GenX levels at 290 parts per trillion. The state recommended level is 140 parts per trillion. 

DEQ officials are also monitoring emissions from the stack at the company for air quality. Earlier in November, Chemours reported a leak from its air emissions which lasted 13 hours before the source was isolated and repaired, according to DEQ’s website.