Wa­ter sam­ples to check for GenX go untested

The News & Observer (Sunday) - - Triangle & N.c. - — STAFF WRITER CRAIG JARVIS

Some of the sur­face-wa­ter tests to make sure po­ten­tially toxic chem­i­cals are no longer dis­charg­ing into the Lower Cape Fear River are on hold be­cause of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment shut­down.

But for now, a spokes­woman for state reg­u­la­tors said Fri­day, the agency is con­fi­dent the wa­ter still meets safety stan­dards.

The N.C. De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Qual­ity has been test­ing the wa­ter and send­ing sam­ples to the U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency’s lab in Athens, Ga. But the bud­get im­passe has closed the EPA – among other fed­eral de­part­ments – in­clud­ing that lab, which can no longer process the sam­ples.

State reg­u­la­tors are con­tin­u­ing to take sam­ples, but in­stead of send­ing them to Ge­or­gia it is stor­ing them in a state fa­cil­ity in Fayet­teville, where they are kept in re­frig­er­a­tors. How long the sam­ples can be saved with­out de­grad­ing will be up to the EPA.

The state en­vi­ron­men­tal agency sam­ples the sur­face wa­ter twice a week at a point where in 2017 the un­reg­u­lated chem­i­cal GenX was dis­cov­ered dis­charg­ing into the Lower Cape Fear River by the Che­mours chem­i­cal com­pany fac­tory south of Fayet­teville. That dis­charge point has been dis­con­nected, and state reg­u­la­tors is­sued no­tices of vi­o­la­tions. Wa­ter there is within state stan­dards, the agency said.

The state also con­ducts sam­ples at five drink­ing wa­ter treat­ment fa­cil­i­ties in the Lower Cape Fear re­gion once a week. That wa­ter meets fed­eral stan­dards for safe drink­ing wa­ter.

In ad­di­tion to those sam­ples taken by hand and sent to the EPA, DEQ uses com­put­er­ized equip­ment that sam­ples wa­ter at the Che­mours site at dif­fer­ent hours of the day. That pro­vides reg­u­la­tors a more fre­quent check on the wa­ter qual­ity around the clock. To date, the tested wa­ter is within stan­dards, DEQ spokes­woman Brid­get Munger said.

GenX is a chem­i­cal used to make non­stick cook­ware and other prod­ucts.

In­de­pen­dent of state reg­u­la­tors, a team com­prised of North Car­olina’s lead­ing univer­sity sci­ence re­searchers have be­gun an am­bi­tious project to test wa­ter through­out the state. Their work will lay the ground­work for long-term mon­i­tor­ing of changes in the state’s wa­ter qual­ity.

Each mu­nic­i­pal­ity in the state will have wa­ter tested at the point where the wa­ter en­ters the pub­lic sys­tem. Each mu­nic­i­pal­ity will also pick one well that sup­plies pub­lic drink­ing wa­ter to test.

Re­searchers are look­ing for chem­i­cals that are clas­si­fied as per- and polyflu­o­roalkyl sub­stances (PFAS), and in­clude GenX.

UNC-Chapel Hill pro­fes­sor Ja­son Sur­ratt, the lead in­ves­ti­ga­tor on the project, said in an email Fri­day that the team’s work won’t be af­fected by the gov­ern­ment shut­down. His in­ves­ti­ga­tors have their own in­stru­ments to mea­sure wa­ter qual­ity and don’t have to rely on EPA equip­ment.

KEN BLEVINS AP

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment shut­down has put some wa­ter tests of the Lower Cape Fear River on hold. But an of­fi­cial of the state en­vi­ron­men­tal agency says the agency is con­fi­dent the wa­ter still meets safety stan­dards. Above is the Fayet­teville Works plant.

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