Our View: Stopping GenX is only 1 step toward safer water
The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority is planning to install a water-treatment plant which would remove GenX and other pollutants (PFAS) from Wilmington customers’ water. The source of the pollution, Chemours, has stopped dumping PFAS into waterways and is incorporating new equipment to capture emissions. Experts plan to see a reduction of more than 70 percent of PFAS by October.
Filters and regulation are a huge step for environmental protections in North Carolina, but there’s still so much to do. GenX and PFAS aren’t the only threats to clean drinking water. The Department of Environmental Quality has tracked a chemical called 1,4 dioxane in rivers and municipal water. This chemical is more dangerous and more likely to cause cancer than PFAS. Unfortunately, state regulators are unlikely to shut down the life-threatening pollutants at the source. The bottom line: years of more work to protect our water.
Waiting is no longer an option, two public utilities in the Cape Fear region have decided. No matter what happens next with GenX and related compounds that are in the river, it’s time to end their customers’ exposure to the toxic chemical soup that’s flowing through the river. The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority is moving toward installing a granulated activated carbon filtration system on the water-treatment plant serving the Wilmington area to remove GenX and other per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from its customers’ water. Nearby Brunswick County is already at work installing a reverse osmosis filter system for the same purpose.
The New Hanover utility — which decide next month — will spend about $46 million on the upgrade. Brunswick is spending spend double that. The utilities will try to recover the costs of the upgrades from the source of much of that pollution, the Chemours chemical plant on the Cumberland-Bladen county line. Chemours, and DuPont before it, has long dumped PFAS into the river as part of its waste stream. The chemicals have also been emitted into the air from stacks at the plant, which has led to extensive pollution of the land and groundwater around the plant.
Chemours, under orders from the state Department of Environmental Quality, no longer dumps GenX and related compounds into the river, but has them trucked away for disposal. New equipment at the plant is removing substantial amounts of GenX from the plant’s emissions, the company reported earlier this month. It expects to see a reduction of more than 70 percent by October. Additional equipment being installed will capture 99.9 percent of the emissions, the company said. The thermal oxidizer system is expected to be running by late next year. The company says it’s spending more than $100 million on emission controls for the plant.