Number Of Wells With Elevated GenX Levels Could Climb Even Higher

Nov 28, 2017

State officials say the total number of wells contaminated by the potentially harmful GenX compound is up to 85.
Credit Keith Weston / WUNC

Tests have shown a total of 85 residential wells near the Chemours plant in Fayetteville with GenX levels above the state health advisory goal--and that number could very well go up as more results come in.

State environmental regulators ordered Chemours to test wells in the vicinity of its Fayetteville Works facility after the revelation in June that the DuPont-spinoff company had been dumping GenX into the Cape Fear River.

GenX is an unregulated fluorinated compound used in non-stick surfaces like Teflon. Its health effects on humans are not known but it has been linked to cancer in test animals.

The first phase of testing was on wells within a mile of the plant's core. Fifty-one wells in that phase were found to have GenX levels above the state health goal of 140 parts per trillion.

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality reported this week that recent results from the second phase of testing thus far show 34 additional wells with GenX levels in excess of the state threshold, in some cases well above that mark.

"One mile from the plant boundary we go up to a maximum of 1,200 parts per trillion," said Michael Scott, director of DEQ's Division of Waste Management.

Scott said more results from well tests in the second phase will be coming in over the next two weeks.

"Meaning the field work is being wrapped up, or has been wrapped up, and so now you're waiting on lab turnaround times," Scott explained.

Whereas GenX that has contaminated drinking water in the Wilmington area ended up there through wastewater discharged into the Cape Fear River, Scott could not say for sure how GenX is ending up in wells closer to the Chemours plant. However, there are suggestions that the GenX is airborne.

"We have detections of GenX on the other side of the Cape Fear River. Often times, a river is a groundwater divide and we have detections across the Cape Fear River. We have detections up-gradient from different wells. So usually when we're looking at groundwater you're looking at down-gradient impact but we have not reached a final conclusion," said Scott.

Scott said testing will continue until the edge of the contamination plume is found.