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By Erin Smith

Rep. William Brisson

The N.C. House is expected to begin discussion on Thursday, August 31st, 2017 regarding a N.C. Senate plan which would give local officials the authority to begin work to improve the quality of the water in the Cape Fear River. The plan also calls for the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality to enforce the law against Chemours for the dumping of the chemical GenX into the river. 

The N.C. Senate adopted the plan on Wednesday. N.C. Representative William Brisson said on Thursday morning he expects the N.C. House to discuss the bill later in the day. “The priority is to provide safe drinking water to the people in this state,” Brisson stated. 

The plan calls for $250,000 to be appropriated to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington to research the amount of GenX which remains in the river and what impact it could have on human health, according to reports.

The plan also appropriates $185,000 to the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority and other public utilities which use the Cape Fear River as a water source to develop technologies which will remove GenX from the water.

Finally, the plan calls for the creation of an electronic filing system to help with the processing of water quality permits and creating a searchable database where local officials and the public can easily locate information regarding permits that have been granted.

Brisson said the clean up of the river will be costly, but he did not offer an exact figure. He said members in both the N.C. House and N.C. Senate want to ensure that funds are being allocated in the right areas for the clean up. “It is a top priority in both Houses (in the NC General Assembly),” said Brisson. 

State and local officials were alerted to the presence of GenX in the Cape Fear River when N.C. State University Professor Detlef Knappe published a report in the Environmental Science and Technology Letters following a study performed by his research team. The report showed high levels of GenX in the water from the vicinity of the Chemours discharge pipe to Wilmington and no GenX was found in the water above the discharge pipe. 

GenX is a chemical which is utilized in the manufacture of Teflon and it is not federally regulated. GenX has been alleged to cause testicular and kidney cancers and to cause liver problems. 

Chemours announced earlier in the summer it has stopped dumping GenX into the river. Instead the company is capturing the tainted wastewater and shipping it to Arkansas to be incinerated. 

In a related matter, on Tuesday the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality sent a letter to Chemours demanding they stop the discharge of two additional chemicals into the river.  In a release, state officials say they are considering all options including going to court to stop Chemours from making any further discharges of the two chemicals into the river. 

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