Read the full article by Adam Wagner (The News & Observer)
“Actor Mark Ruffalo is shining a spotlight on North Carolina communities struggling with contamination from ‘forever chemicals.’
In visits to Wilmington, Pittsboro and Raleigh on Tuesday and Wednesday, Ruffalo is working with local environmental groups to highlight the human impact of per- and polyflouroalkyl substances, widely known as PFAS, a class of long-lasting chemicals that have been linked to a wide range of human health impacts.
During an event Tuesday at Wilmington’s Thalian Hall, Ruffalo was scheduled to host a showing of ‘Dark Waters,’ the recently released film in which he stars as Rob Billott. A Cincinnati, Ohio-based attorney, Bilott has spent much of the past 20 years facing off against DuPont due its contamination of Parkersburg, West Virginia, with PFAS chemical C8. That struggle is the core of Ruffalo’s film.
As concerns about the health impacts of C8 — also known as PFOA — mounted, DuPont shifted production to another chemical called GenX, which was supposed to be less risky and, due to its chemical structure, not accumulate in humans and animals as much as its predecessors. In 2009, the company told the Environmental Protection Agency it would begin making that chemical at its Fayetteville Works Plant, near the Bladen and Cumberland county lines.
GENX AROUND WILMINGTON
Unknown to regulators or the public, however, GenX had been reaching the Cape Fear River for decades as a byproduct of a different chemical process taking place at Fayetteville Works. That was only revealed after a team of N.C. State University and EPA scientists profiled the chemical and measured it in the Cape Fear River. They discovered that it also had made its way through existing Wilmington-area water treatment processes and into the region’s drinking water.
After the Wilmington StarNews reported on the scientists’ findings in 2017, an environmental official for Chemours revealed that he and other employees had known that GenX chemicals were reaching the Cape Fear River since about 1980. In 2015, DuPont spun off its Performance Chemicals segment, forming Chemours in a move widely seen as an effort to limit its liability to PFAS and other litigation.
The revelation about GenX drew statewide attention and led to the formation of Clean Cape Fear, a group of community activists who have pushed state and local leaders for more protection of drinking water. That group will join the N.C. Conservation Network and the Center for Environmental Health in hosting Ruffalo on the ‘Why We Fight’ tour of communities impacted by PFAS contamination.
Since the contamination was revealed, Chemours has agreed to pay a $12 million fine and spend about $100 million building a thermal oxidizer that will destroy emissions containing GenX chemicals. Brunswick County is spending $137 million to add a reverse osmosis system at a water treatment plant, while the Wilmington-area Cape Fear Public Utility Authority will spend $46 million installing granular activated carbon filters to capture PFAS chemicals.
During his visit to North Carolina, the actor will highlight that PFAS concerns are broader than the Wilmington area. Wednesday, Ruffalo is expected to visit Pittsboro, the Chatham County community where researchers have found elevated levels of PFAS compounds.
In a grant proposal, Duke University professors Heather Stapleton and Lee Ferguson reported they had found PFAS chemicals in the drinking water of every Triangle-area community. But in Pittsboro, the researchers wrote, levels were particularly high, on par with those of GenX contamination along the Cape Fear River — about 760 parts per trillion…”