FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – Years after potentially harmful chemicals were found in and around the Cape Fear River, new Enviornmental Protection Agency guidelines show 1,300 additional wells contaminated with elevated GenX, PFAS levels.
Employees of a local store in the Gray’s Creek area, just 15 minutes south of Fayetteville, say they sell out of water multiple times a week because as people look to stock up on safe drinking water.
“I know that when I stock water, the very next day it’s gone,” employee, Ms. G, said. “People need clean water to bathe and cook their food with. They get water delivery, but they still need extra water.”
GenX and PFAS chemicals are different types of man-made chemicals.
For some who live in southern Cumberland County, water filters are a necessity in keeping their family safe.
“Showering, drinking the water, we could taste something was wrong,” Cathy Franke, who lives in Gray’s Creek, said. “So, we ended up spending $5,000 on a new filtration system.”
According to Cumberland County officials, it has been five years since chemicals used in non-stick cookware, like GENX and PFAS, were found coursing through the Cape Fear area from the Chemours chemical company plant outside Fayetteville.
While discharge has stopped, the impacts remain, according to those who still live in the area.
“I’m angry. I don’t know why they would dispose of all this stuff,” Franke said. “You know, you fear for what’s about to happen because you’re still affected by it, whether it’s in your water, on your land, whatever. You’re still impacted by it.”
A study released last year by the EPA shows harmful health impacts of forever chemicals in animals on the liver, kidneys, immune system and even having an association with cancer.
Just last month, the EPA set new advisory levels to avoid long-term health effects of forever chemicals. But those advisory levels are far lower than the state’s initial goal for safe drinking water.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services previously set GenX chemical levels in drinking water at 140 ppt (parts per trillion). However, the EPA now states that anything above 10 ppt could lead to adverse health effects.
According to EPA standards, 1,300 additional wells in the county are now considered contaminated, anyone drawing from those wells, that include two elementary schools and multiple neighborhoods, will need better filters.
“All of our neighbors, the church, everybody that lives near us, (are) all impacted,” Franke said.
To help, the county plans to invest 21 million dollars into the Gray’s Creek District south of the city to get clean water in bulk to rural residents and install more filters.
But county manager Amy Cannon said there’s more to do.
The county also wants to set up two additional water and sewer districts to prioritize even more areas based on contamination levels.
“The county’s concerned,” Cannon said. “We want to take a deeper dive and learn all that we can and determine what ways and how can we feasibly provide clean drinking water for residents in Cumberland County.”
While the county canceled its Monday night meeting, Cannon said they plan to reschedule that meeting, as well as canvass the neighborhoods impacted.
Anyone can view contaminated areas and the county’s proposals to help online here.