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Officials answer questions about GenX well water testing

By Erin Smith

Residents and area leaders gathered at the St. Pauls Middle School to learn more about the residential well testing for the presence of the chemical GenX. Testing is set to begin Friday, September 15th. Representatives from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services were on hand to answer residents’ questions.

A relatively small crowd attended the event held in the school’s auditorium. Information was provided regarding the ongoing investigation into the the chemical compound and the latest on the well sampling tests conducted on groundwater testing wells on the Chemours property. As a result of those tests, 13 of the 14 wells tested positive for the presence of GenX and other products.

Parsons, a company from Charlotte, will be conducting the residential drinking water well surveying and sampling on behalf of Chemours. The plan, which was made available to residents during the meeting, indicates that all residences within a mile radius of the Chemours site will be tested. Residents must agree for their wells to be sampled, according to the plan.

Tony Callaway and his wife, Regina, stay across the highway from the plant in Cumberland County.

“It’s pretty upsetting. We’ve been here three years. I’m more worried about my daughter’s health than anything,” said Callaway. His daughter, who is 3 years old, has been drinking the well water at the home since she was born.

“We want more information on it (GenX),” said Callaway.

Dan Corbin, a resident of Eastover in Cumberland County, said his wife, Brenda Council, and her parents have always lived near the intersection of Countyline Road and Council Road. He said they are about two miles from the plant and have concerns about the drinking water.

“What kind of testing they will be doing and who will be doing the testing?” asked Corbin.

Eve Ison resides on Countyline Road near Council Road. She said she is about one mile from the Chemours plant along the Cumberland County line. Ison expressed concerns about whether or not her well water may be polluted.

“I’ve lived there for 30 years,” said Ison. She added she has been using bottled drinking water since she learned what was happening at the plant.

Kip McClarey, Director of Bladen County Operations, was in attendance along Bladen County Manager Greg Martin and Bladen County Health and Human Services Director David Howard.

McClary said testing of the county’s wells started Thursday, September 14th. He said samples from two of the county’s wells are on their way to the lab for testing while bottles for samples are coming that will allow for testing of four more of the county’s wells.

McClary said Bladen County’s drinking water comes from an aquifer and it gives the county some safety from intrusion of contaminates. He said the aquifer tends to flow out rather than in so county officials don’t anticipate finding anything in the water. McClary said if something is found, more testing will take place. He anticipated having test results on the wells in three weeks.

Julie Wesley, with the NC Department of Environmental Quality said, “The purpose (of the meeting) is to share information about the chemicals found in surface and groundwater in wells in the area.”

Wesley said officials want to answer questions that residents have regarding the chemicals which have been found. Four stations were set up around the room to allow residents to sign up for well testing, learn more about the area impacted and to learn more about the chemicals and the investigation.

Sheila Holman with DEQ also spoke. She said as part of the ongoing investigation, officials went to the Chemours plant and sampled the groundwater test wells. She explained tests showed that 13 out 14 wells were contaminated with GenX.

“The next step is to understand how far the chemical has spread,” said Holman.

Holman added that no one is sure what impacts, if any, GenX has on humans. The Department of Health and Human Services established a safe level of 140 parts per trillion recently, according to Mark Benton, the department’s deputy secretary. He said those levels were based on European studies.

Bladen County Health and Human Services Director David Howard said county officials were attending the meeting to represent the county since there are residents who are impacted by the testing. He said there are 10 or 12 private wells in Bladen County which will be tested by Chemours.

It is anticipated it could take up to three weeks before results of the testing are known, according to officials. Chemours is making bottled water available to residents whose wells are being tested.

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