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UNC-Wilmington Researchers: Gen-X is in the sediment in Cape Fear River

By Erin Smith

A team of researchers from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington said this week their research shows the chemical Gen-X is in the sediment on the bottom of the Cape Fear River and the chemical could remain in the sediment for a long period of time.

The team of researchers from UNCW’s Biology and Chemistry Departments reported their findings to the NC House of Representatives earlier this week. Read the entire report to the NC House of Representatives here.

The research was funded in NC House Bill 56 which provided $250,000 for the study. According to the UNCW report, the researchers developed a test for Gen-X in sediment and were able to confirm through that test the presence of Gen-X in the sediment in the river. The report issued indicates the Gen-X found in the sediment could remain in the river for some time. The highest concentrations of Gen-X in the river sediment were reported to have been found in Bladen County and Wilmington.

It was also reported by the researchers that they tested Oyster beds in several locations. The UNCW report indicates Oysters filter chemicals and other compounds in the water. The researchers learned there is very little Gen-X accumulation in the Oysters tested. The UNCW report states researchers are planning to perform further studies on Oyster beds to determine how quickly the Oysters release the Gen-X from their systems.

In addition to testing for the presence of Gen-X, the report shows researchers also tested for the presence of other perfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAs) and found seven additional compounds. The researchers also tested rain water samples and found Gen-X present in those samples.

The Chemours plant located near Fayetteville shut off their Gen-X discharge pipe last year but traces of the chemical can still be found in the waters of the Cape Fear River. The company has been told by the NC Department of Environmental Quality to implement better methods of controlling compounds released into the air through the company’s stack. It was found that a chemical released through the stack at the Chemours plant can become Gen-X when it comes into contact with humidity or rain.

The research team is planning to continue their work to learn more about how Gen-X breaks down in the river sediment.

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