“Last week I received a long-awaited letter in the mail. The address in the top left corner read ‘NC State University: GenX Exposure Study.’ Last November my home and 197 other New Hanover County households welcomed a technician into our kitchens to take a sample of our tap water to test for fluorochemicals. For the past five months, we’ve waited patiently for the lab to uncover exactly what is coming out of our taps. Now, at long last, we have our results.

Seventeen fluorochemicals, including GenX, were tested for, and used U.S. EPA standard procedures. GenX was found in most tap-water samples collected from homes serviced by the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant, which sources its water from the Cape Fear River. However, no samples were above the current public health goal of 140 parts per trillion (a number reached based on limited animal studies). Interestingly, the four tap-water samples from the Richardson Plant, which sources from groundwater, did not have detectable levels of GenX.

In addition to GenX, other fluorochemicals—Nafion byproduct 2, perfluoro-2-methoxyacetic acid (PFMOAA), and perfluoro(3,5-dioxahexanoic) acid (PFO2HxA)—were discovered in the water samples at a higher instrument response level than GenX. Due to the limitations of the equipment, the other three fluorochemicals were measured semi-quantitatively, meaning the exact concentrations couldn’t be calculated. But the researchers are confident the three chemicals were present. However,  there are currently no public health goals set for the three fluorochemicals.

On the last page of the letter were my own results. In recent months I have looked at my kitchen faucet with increased scrutiny and suspicion, so it was a relief to finally get some certainty about what was flowing out of it. I wasn’t surprised to learn the chemicals were there. We all knew it was happening—since last June, at least. I was pleased to discover my levels were consistently beneath the average levels found in the 198 households—why, I cannot guess. But they were still there, where they did not belong.

I’m not sure how to feel about the information, honestly. It doesn’t change anything. There are chemicals in our drinking water, placed there by the greed of a large corporation, which has done nothing to apologize for its actions, make amends or clean up the mess it made. It’s too late, anyhow. They’re out there, and they’re not going away any time soon. Only time will tell what it means for the wild places in our state—or for the health of people who live here. But we know who to blame, at least, and we now see exactly how big the problem is with a little more clarity.”

Read the full article by John Wolfe