“CUMBERLAND COUNTY — ‘Give Us Clean Air and Water’ read a handmade sign that Rebekah Cain Saenz held up by the side of the highway. Beside her, a fellow protester displayed the words ‘Stop Chemours’ from an upright placard.

Occasionally, a truck driver or motorist honked in support while barrelling by on N.C. 87 North.

Eight people had gathered just after noon Saturday at the corner of N.C. 87 and County Line Road, which serves as the main entrance to the Fayetteville Works site. There, along the Cape Fear River, Chemours and DuPont are among the three companies that produce various products. Some of the products contain fluorochemical compounds, which research has shown can cause cancer and disrupt sexual development in lab animals. The health effects of one of these compounds, GenX, on humans remain controversial.

Saenz, who is 30, is a stay-at-home mother who lives in Hope Mills…

‘This is home to me. This is where I grew up,’ Saenz said, referring to Pages Lake Road by Camp Dixie. ‘For over 100 years, my family has had a family farm in this community. I believe clean air and clean water are basic human rights, and I believe they have been taken away from us.’

For 38 years, DuPont (and later, spin-off Chemours) allegedly has violated environmental and public health laws by illegally dumping chemicals into the Cape Fear. In June 2017, the state started investigating Chemours when news broke that researchers had discovered GenX in the Cape Fear River downstream from the plant. The river is a source of drinking water for much of the southeast part of the state.

The GenX compound, which has since been found in hundreds of private wells around the facility, has been linked to several forms of cancer in animal studies. It’s unknown if the effect is the same on humans…

In January, lawyers filed a new class action suit against DuPont and Chemours, claiming that the two firms contaminated the river with fluorosurfactants. That filing consolidates and updates three class action suits filed since October by lawyers representing thousands of people who claim they are ill or could get ill because they drank water from the Cape Fear River and from wells surrounding the plant. A judge in U.S. Federal District Court in Wilmington ordered the consolidation in early January to streamline the effort to try claims…

On Saturday, not far from Saenz, stood 63-year-old Debra Stewart. She was dressed as the Grim Reaper in black Revolutionary War attire. She said she chose that period because it was when freedom of speech was guaranteed to all.

Stewart lives in nearby Gray’s Creek, her home since 1980.

‘We found this place out here,’ she said, ‘and thought it was paradise.’

But paradise has turned into what she describes as a nightmare. She has two wells on her property, and both are contaminated.

She has suffered health conditions, including hypothyroidism and the loss of part of her colon, that she blames on the plant. She has had three horses that died from heaves, the most prevalent lung disease seen in horses. Five of her dogs died mysteriously, she said, and a pig that drank from one of the contaminated wells was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

‘I want to shut this plant down,’ Stewart said, ‘before it endangers anyone else.’ ”

Read the full article by Michael Futch