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EPA releases health advisories for four PFAS chemicals

Cumberland County commissioners to hear update on latest advisories, including those related to GenX.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday released national drinking water health advisories for four PFAS chemicals including GenX, which has plagued private well water supplies near the Chemours plant off N.C. 87 at the Bladen and Cumberland County line.

The EPA release includes interim health advisories for PFOA and PFOS and final health advisories for GenX and PFBS. 

The EPA lists the health advisory level for GenX chemicals of 10 parts per trillion, and for PFBS at 2,000 parts per trillion. 

The EPA drinking water health advisory released Wednesday for GenX replaces the 2018 North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services provisional drinking water health goal of 140 parts per trillion. 

GenX is the trade name for a chemical component of a larger collection of man-made chemicals known as per- and polyflouroalkyl substances or PFAS. Manufacturers use GenX, a replacement for some PFAS, to produce nonstick coatings, pizza boxes and a number of other consumer goods. GenX also can be a byproduct of some manufacturing processes. 

For years, Chemours has discharged GenX into the Cape Fear River and the air. Groundwater and well testing revealed that Genx has contaminated the drinking water supply for much of Cumberland County’s Gray’s Creek community. Well contamination also has been discovered 25 miles from the Chemours plant, in an area between the towns of Falcon and Wade.

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality obtained a consent order that requires Chemours to test private wells for PFAS if they are located within a certain distance of the plant or the Cape Fear River. 

The order requires Chemours to provide whole-house filtration for private drinking water wells that contain concentrations of GenX greater than the recommended levels in the newly released health advisories. The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality also requires Chemours to keep affected residents informed about all of the available options for testing and filtration.

The DEQ estimates that more than 1,700 additional private well users are now eligible for whole house filtration systems or connection to a safe public water supply. 

GenX and other PFAS have been associated with several types of cancer, liver disease, high cholesterol, low birth weight, immune system disorders and other diseases

The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners on Monday is scheduled to get the latest update on the EPA results as part of its regular monthly meeting. The county administration is keeping the affected population informed about the presence of GenX and any other compounds produced by Chemours that have leached into the Cape Fear River and nearby drinking water wells.

The board meets at 6:45 p.m. in Room 118 of the Judge E. Maurice Braswell Cumberland County Courthouse. 

The board recently hired an engineering firm to complete an engineering report for extending water lines in the Gray’s Creek Water and Sewer District. The project is among the board’s top priorities and is funded in the fiscal 2023 budget. The county is working on extending water to two elementary schools and homeowners with contaminated drinking water wells and has unsuccessfully sought the Fayetteville Public Works Commission's inclusion in the project. PWC did participate in paying for the engineering study. 

The EPA also invited states and U.S. territories to apply for $1 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law grant money to fix PFAS and other drinking water contaminants. The $1 billion would be the first of $5 billion available in grant funding, specifically for small or disadvantaged communities. 

A news release from the Southern Environmental Law Center said the EPA drinking water health advisories for GenX and other PFAS show the need for EPA and state agencies to enforce existing laws against polluters. 

Jason Brady covers Cumberland County government for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at jbrady@cityviewnc.com.

Cumberland County, Board of Commissioners, EPA, PFAS, GenX, Chemours, health advisories