Read the full article by Greg Barnes

“A state science board made no substantial changes before giving final approval of a report on GenX, the potentially carcinogenic chemical that has been found contaminating the Cape Fear River, along with hundreds of private wells surrounding the Chemours Fayetteville Works plant in Bladen County.

In a meeting of the North Carolina Secretaries’ Science Advisory Board on Monday, the 16-member panel did give a nod to residents whose wells have been contaminated with the fluorinated chemical that has been produced at the plant since 2010. GenX and other per- and poly-fluorinated compounds (known as PFAS) have been discharged into the Cape Fear by the DuPont spinoff company as a byproduct of manufacturing processes since at least the early 1980s.

The board approved a draft of the 25-page report in August, leaving unchanged a provisional health goal of 140 parts per trillion for GenX in water to be consumed by humans. That amount is the equivalent of dissolving 140 grains of sugar in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The state adopted the health goal shortly after the public learned in June 2017 that GenX had been found in higher concentrations in the Cape Fear River and in drinking water for Wilmington and other public utilities near the coast.

The board reports to the state Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Environmental Quality. After approving the draft report, the board accepted written comments from the public, receiving 11, mostly from residents living near Chemours.

Some of those residents urged the board to base the health goal on what is known as the practical quantitation limit, or PQL, defined by state statute as the lowest level of a contaminant in groundwater that can be reliably detected by laboratories. That level for GenX is 10 parts per trillion or 14 times lower than the state’s health goal.

Residents also urged the board to examine whether a mixture of GenX and other fluorinated compounds in drinking water creates a health hazard. Some private wells surrounding the Chemours plant, near the Cumberland County line, have been found to contain more than  15 contaminants in the same family of chemicals.

‘We are victims of this contamination but yet we are being penalized and physically and mentally harmed further by this high health level. Please help us,’ wrote Randa Dunn, who lives near the plant in Cumberland County. ‘I want to talk as a resident and human being. I am scared. My family is scared. We will not drink the water at any level, and we do not feel safe at any level.’ …

Little is known about the health effects of GenX on humans, but animal studies have found it to cause negatively affects the liver and blood, along with cancers of the liver, pancreas and testicles. PFAS, including GenX, persist and accumulate in the human body over time.

Board member Detlef Knappe, a researcher at N.C. State University, said during Monday’s meeting that the board should further discuss the opinions and concerns of residents before giving final approval to the report…

… [Tom Augspurger], a specialist on environmental contaminants with the U.S .Fish and Wildlife Service, said DHHS and DEQ had never charged the Science Advisory Board with evaluating the effects of a mixture of contaminants on human health, or the use of the PQL. Board members said they were charged only with evaluating the science-based value of the 140 parts per trillion health goal.

Although that science is limited, board members said, they expressed confidence that the 140 parts per trillion threshold will not cause adverse health effects during a lifetime of exposure. They did recommend, though, as part of the report that residents’ concerns be taken into account and studied further.

‘This report would not preclude the policy decision to adopt that PQL to regulatory standard, however the charge of this advisory board was to recommend the science- and risk-based level that would be health protective,’ Augspurger said.

In about two weeks, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to publish a report setting a toxicity level for GenX, said Sandy Mort, an environmental toxicologist with the DEQ. That level could influence the state’s current health goal.”