GenX discovery stirs uneasy memories for nearby residents

2017-09-08 | The Fayetteville Observer

Sept. 08--When Eve Ison found out Thursday that a potentially harmful chemical had been detected in the groundwater at the Chemours plant near her house, she recalled a meeting more than 11 years ago.

Ison and about 80 of her neighbors heard representatives from what was then the DuPont plant talk about chemicals in the water. She still has the five pages of notes she took at the March 2006 meeting.

"I knew one day I was going to need that," she said.

That meeting focused on C8, a suspected carcinogen that DuPont was producing. The company agreed in 2009 to stop making it after it faced a class action lawsuit from thousands of people in Ohio and West Virginia.

DuPont slightly altered the chemical, which is known as a perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, and named it GenX. The company started using GenX at its Fayetteville Works plant off N.C. 87 in northern Bladen County, at the Cumberland County line.

DuPont's spinoff company, Chemours, continued to use GenX, which was discovered in the Cape Fear River by researchers last year. When that discovery came to light this year, the company agreed to stop dumping it in the river.

The state Department of Environmental Quality began an investigation of GenX and other chemicals that were found in the river by the researchers. Tuesday, state officials announced legal action against Chemours and ordered the company to stop dumping the potentially harmful chemicals into the river. The state also started the process to deny the company's waste water discharge permit.

Wednesday, state officials announced that GenX had been detected in groundwater from wells on the Chemours property. The company said it would offer to test water from nearby residences who get drinking water from wells.

Chemours officials said Thursday that the offer will apply to about 100 residents who use wells within a mile of the plant.

State officials have scheduled an information session to answer questions about the groundwater test results. The meeting is set for 6 p.m. Sept. 14 at St. Pauls Middle School.

Ison, who said she plans to go to the meeting, has lived on County Line Road about a half-mile from the entrance to the plant for about 30 years. She said she has been drinking bottled water since the C8 issue arose, but still wants her well tested.

"I want them to come check my water," she said.

Brenda Corbin said she wants Chemours to test the well at the home of her parents, John and Mabel Council, who live next to Ison. She said all the residents in the area should have that opportunity.

"If something's in the water, they can't speak to how far it goes," she said.

Ison agreed.

"We don't want them to pick and choose," she said.

Tom Kuhns, who lives on 11 acres off N.C. 87 across from the plant property, said Thursday that nobody from the company had contacted him about the issue.

"Maybe they'll come by and take some of my water," he said. "I really hope they don't find anything."

Billy Cain, who lives about a mile from the plant on N.C. 87, said two Chemours workers came by his house Thursday morning to take water samples.

"They said they were testing for GenX," he said.

The workers took two samples, then came back about an hour later and took two more, Cain said.

"I don't expect them to find anything, but you never know," he said.

Cain said the Chemours representatives told him that if GenX is found in the water, the company will provide him with bottled water to drink.

"I hope it doesn't come to that," he said.

Helen Brockett, who lives in the Point East neighborhood about a mile and a half from the plant, said she isn't too concerned about the GenX issue because her well draws water from a different aquifer than the Chemours plant. She said her water has been tested several times.

"Our water quality has always been good," she said. "We're not happy about it happening to other folks."

Staff writer Steve DeVane can be reached at or 486-3572.