‘Sense of urgency’ sought as Gray’s Creek near Fayetteville fights for clean water

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GRAY’S CREEK, N.C. (WNCN) — People in Gray’s Creek have been using bottled water for two years now — ever since they learned about chemicals from the nearby Chemours plant being dumped in their water.

They don’t think the company, or lawmakers, are doing enough to help, so they’re protesting again this Saturday.

“Our wells are contaminated,” Mike Watters said. “I have 16 different chemicals in my well.”

Watters is leading the fight for people in Gray’s Creek to have clean water.

“I used to have an enormous garden, and I can’t grow vegetables to consume,” Watters said.

Cases of bottled water get dropped off to his home every week.

“We are talking two years I’ve been living off bottled water,” Watters said.

He says he no longer even showers at home.

“When you do you get sores,” Watters said.

He is organizing another protest this Saturday outside of the Chemours plant.

“We are fighting to hold Chemours and DuPont responsible,” Watters said. “Run water to us, that’s what we are asking for.”

He also wants lawmakers to step up and hold companies accountable for paying to fix the problem.

“If we do not get Chemours and DuPont held accountable, they will use state resources, your tax dollars, to pay for something that was caused by DuPont and Chemours,” Watters said.

“We have to move at a sense of urgency,” said Sen. Kirk DeViere (D).

He’s been working with Gray’s Creek residents, and fellow lawmakers, trying to get bipartisan legislation passed to protect the water.

“As lawmakers what we can do is actually have a conversation about what’s happening, but more importantly fund a solution toward it,” DeViere said.

DeViere says in the last two years, $1.8 million has been cut from the budget of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.

“We need to restore that budget, that’s personnel as well as resources to monitor and hold people that are polluting our waters and our air accountable,” DeViere said.

He says he toured the Fayetteville Chemours plant last week.

“I believe Chemours wants to be a good neighbor, but I’m concerned that we’re not moving fast enough to help the people that are out in Gray’s Creek and these other contaminated areas right now,” DeViere said.

He says more short term solutions need to be offered to help people like Watters.

“Nobody is going to buy my house,” Watters said, when asked if he considered moving. 

Chemours emailed this statement:

Our definitive actions have significantly reduced emissions to air and water, as is demonstrated through current water sampling data. Our first phase of action has been to substantially reduce current emissions, and we’ve done that.  We have already achieved a 95% decrease of C3 dimer acid in the river, a 92% reduction in air emissions of PFAS constituents, and we’ll soon be controlling 99% of air emissions when our Emissions Control Facility is completed at the end of this year. We would encourage other businesses and industries whose actions impact water quality in the Cape Fear to do the same. 

“In just 24 months we have been able to capture all process water, achieve these dramatic reductions in air emissions and provide clean drinking water to several hundred homes throughout the area.  I don’t know of any other company that has accomplished so much so quickly.  Frankly, I can’t even think of another company that has tried.”

Chemours Fayetteville Works Plant Manager Brian Long.

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