Chemours has committed an investment of $100 million in plant upgrades to reduce GenX emissions by 99 percent. In addition, it has stopped pumping wastewater into the Cape Fear River and will now be trucking it to Texas. This was the message presented last week by Brian Long, general plant manager of the Chemours plant that borders Bladen and Cumberland counties. He was the host and keynote speaker at the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce breakfast last Thursday.
Long was accompanied by Damian Shea from the Department of Biological Sciences at North Carolina State University. Together, they came to update the business community on the actions Chemours has taken and will be taking to alleviate community concerns about the alleged harmful effects of GenX, which has been detected in local wells and water systems. GenX is a chemical compound used in making nonstick surfaces such as Teflon. The talk was informative and reassuring.
Unfortunately, only two of our elected officials were in the audience. I applaud Councilwoman Tisha Waddell and newly appointed Councilman Dan Culliton for their concern and interest. It was disappointing that no Cumberland County commissioners were present, considering the time and effort that has gone into addressing the GenX situation.
When both speakers were asked during the public forum if they would be comfortable having their families and young children drink the water, both Long and Shea answered with a resounding yes.
When it comes to GenX, the concerns over its toxicity and ill effects on residents seem unsubstantiated and grossly exaggerated. In some cases, they reek of government intrusion, unfounded accusations and speculation with a hint of corporate extortion. To many, Chemours is caught up in a tangled web of political power, greed and money grubbing. It’s unfortunate, but in this climate of quick-fire litigation and political correctness, respectable and competent voices of the silent majority are reluctant to come forth to question outcomes, findings, studies and obvious flaws in the investigation process.
My skepticism has to do with knowing, or not knowing, what real harm or danger results from exposure to Gen X. I have made two observations over the past year. First, after more than two decades of residents living, working and playing in areas exposed to GenX, there has been no proven case or recorded medical evidence validating that GenX has any adverse effects on human beings. That’s nearly three generations of healthy, happy families – all drinking and bathing from the same faucets with no reports of birth defects, premature hair loss, allergies or skin rashes – and no reports of three-eyed fish being caught in the Cape Fear River or twoheaded calves in the livestock. You would think after decades of exposure, there would be some evidence or telltale
signs of a serious health hazard. There are none.
This brings me to my second observation, which I call the “Where’s Waldo” disclaimer. In hundreds, maybe thousands of news features, articles and editorials written about Chemours and the GenX situation, you will always find that onesentence disclaimer that reads: “Animal studies have linked GenX to several forms of cancer, BUT, it isn’t known if the effect is the same in humans.”
Like Waldo, you must search for it, but I assure you, it is there. The question everyone should be asking is, why is it there? For many, the answer is simple: After decades of exposure with no indications of detrimental effects on human beings, can you imagine how much toxin had to be pumped into that poor laboratory rat before it showed signs of cancer? Once the researchers accomplished this task, it became open season on Chemours. Chemours is now in their sights, viewed as a fat, cash-cow corporation that can be intimidated and squeezed by state and local governments, environmentalists and downriver municipalities.
This could be North Carolina’s payday, and Chemours is the paymaster. Hundreds of thousands of tax dollars have already flowed to organizations and universities for “research” to solve a problem that has yet to be defined or determined. The state’s demand for more money for more testing and more inspections, if granted, would mean hiring more people, expanding the Department of Environmental Quality and, ultimately, expanding the government. Is all this prudent?
The state Department of Health and Human Services weighed in with a four-week, all-inclusive study to determine and set the state’s health goal. According to Damian Shea, the NC State biological science professor, a proper study would have taken at least two years.
Nonetheless, the situation is real. People are concerned. Private wells have been declared contaminated, and something must be done about it. In addition to the $100 million plant investment, Chemours has offered to pay for the installation of water filtration systems in homes with wells that have GenX levels exceeding the state’s recommended levels. To this, we should say, “Thank you, Chemours.” And, “Thank you for the many years you have supported and contributed to the families and economies of both Bladen and Cumberland counties. You are a good corporate partner.”
Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.