“Since news first broke about the presence of GenX in the Cape Fear River and the Wilmington-area water supply, there have been two arcs to the story.

There are the immediate concerns over the safety of drinking water in Wilmington and in the vicinity of the Chemours manufacturing facility in Bladen County, and there’s the open question about what the state will do going forward to monitor and regulate GenX and the growing universe of unregulated emerging contaminants.

This fall could prove pivotal in each area as deadlines approach in both legal and regulatory actions and a new university-led effort works toward creation of a statewide network aimed at monitoring and research of GenX and other per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

Jason Surratt, a professor and researcher at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health, was recently named program director for the new PFAS Testing Network. Surratt said the group, which was established through the university’s North Carolina Policy Collaboratory and includes researchers at six universities, will lay out plans, organization and goals for the network Sept. 28 during a PFAS forum at Duke University.

The studies are being led by North Carolina State University professor Detlef Knappe, one of the lead researchers in establishing the presence of GenX in the Wilmington area’s water supply and Lee Ferguson, a Duke University environmental engineering professor who has advocated for a more comprehensive regulatory and monitoring system.

The advisory board for the project includes Knappe, Ferguson, University of North Carolina Charlotte assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering Mei Sun, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology Jamie DeWitt from East Carolina University, chemistry and biochemistry professor Ralph Mead at University of North Carolina Wilmington and University of North Carolina Chapel Hill groundwater researcher Jacqueline MacDonald-Gibson.

Surratt said the organization has been moving quickly and has already received its first round of funds from a $5,013,000 appropriation to the collaboratory in this year’s adjustment to the state budget.

A special provision in the budget legislation directs the collaboratory to identify faculty, equipment and other resources and coordinate them to ‘conduct non-targeted analysis for PFAS, including GenX, at all public water supply surface water intakes and one public water supply well selected by each municipal water system that operates groundwater wells for public drinking water supplies as identified by the Department of Environmental Quality, to establish a water quality baseline for all sampling sites.’

Another section of the provision directs the collaboratory to set up research on modeling of PFAS discharges and potential contamination of private wells, along with test methods for removing PFAS. It also calls for a study of air emissions and atmospheric deposition, which has been one of the primary areas of focus of Department of Environmental Quality, or DEQ, work around the Chemours plant…

‘Hiring is underway for the teams or people are already in place, and we expect work to begin in October,’ [said Surratt]. ‘DEQ has provided us their list of required sampling sites established in the legislative language, and we are discussing logistics on how sampling at these 348 sites will be carried out.’

The list includes 190 public surface water intakes and 158 municipalities with at least one public water supply well.

Surratt said the group has also started its outreach efforts…

The network is required to report its findings on the baseline sampling to the Environmental Review Commission, DEQ, the Department of Health and Human Services, or DHHS, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, no later than Dec. 1, 2019. The collaboratory’s first quarterly report on the network is due no later than Oct. 1.”

Read the full article by Kirk Ross