Part 2 — GenX Aware: Old Assumptions, New Attitudes

“WILMINGTON – For a time it seemed as though last year’s revelation that GenX had tainted the Cape Fear River and downstream drinking water supplies might be a wake-up call for North Carolina to look more closely at the water its residents drink.

Reports had surfaced in recent years detailing high levels of contamination by substances such as 1,4-dioxane, with health threats far better defined than GenX’s, yet legislators devoted far more attention to paring or weakening environmental regulations and cutting funds for its enforcement.

This time – as GenX-related contamination grew to encompass a host of other fluorochemicals, with pollution found in air and rain, groundwater and private wells, and turning up in a jar of honey – lawmakers seemed poised to take tentative steps toward understanding the scope of water contamination, not just from GenX and other per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, but from emerging contaminants in general.

Certainly, they would not provide funding sought by the governor to begin rebuilding North Carolina’s regulatory agencies, but Senate and House bills responding to alarms about GenX did allocate money to take a broad, open-ended look at contaminants in North Carolina’s drinking water statewide.

At the end of May, though, the North Carolina General Assembly pressed the snooze button on that notion. Lawmakers approved and sent to Gov. Roy Cooper a bill that includes $9.3 million to assess drinking-water contamination but, after learning industry found the original scope ‘most troubling,’ they took care to restrict efforts solely to the class of chemicals that includes GenX…

An industrial solvent used in a range of products including paint strippers, pharmaceuticals and shampoos, 1,4-dioxane is ‘likely to be carcinogenic to humans,’ according the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has established a lifetime health advisory of 0.35 parts per billion in drinking water, a level exceeded in testing at water utilities in several North Carolina communities. Water drawn from the Cape Fear River watershed accounted for seven of the 20 highest 1,4-dioxane concentrations found in the United States as part of the EPA’s most recently completed round of testing for unregulated contaminants in drinking water.”

Read the full article by Vaughn Hagerty