“Is my water safe?

That was the question many Wilmington-area residents asked a year ago when the StarNews revealed that a toxic chemical called GenX had been found in their drinking water. It was also the question authorities and regulators could not fully answer.

More than 200,000 people rely on the Cape Fear River for their drinking water. They first learned of the threat in June 2017 when the StarNews reported on research showing Chemours’ Fayetteville Works facility was discharging GenX into the water about 100 miles upstream from Wilmington and that utilities drawing from the river couldn’t filter it out…

Now, levels of GenX in area drinking water sit below the state’s health goal. But a sense of anger remains, and many are still refusing to drink tap water, wary of its potential impacts to their health or that of their loved ones.

Here’s a look at some of what’s happened in the past year and what it tells you about the state of your drinking water.

The utilities

Initial response: Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA), which supplies water to many residents in New Hanover County, initially insisted its drinking water met all standards. The problem was, there weren’t any standards for GenX.

Jim Flechtner, CFPUA’s executive director, said the agency initially turned to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for guidance, but realized there were not any imminent changes to drinking water limits that could help the utility understand how safe — or not — its water is.

‘The regulatory framework that we rely on to set drinking water standards is not sufficient,’ Flechtner said earlier this month.

Where they are now: Both CFPUA and Brunswick County Utilities have been regularly testing their raw and finished drinking water for the presence of GenX and similar compounds. Those tests show that results have consistently remained low for months.

Each utility also decided to add additional protections for their drinking water. CFPUA is seeking design bids for a granular activated carbon system that would cost $46 million, with an additional $2.7 million in operating costs. Voters would ultimately choose whether it moves forward in a bond item.

We’ve done a lot in the past 12 months, Flechtner said. We’ve accomplished what would normally be years’ worth of work.’ “

Read the full article by Adam Wagner