When circumstances merit, our publisher, Bill Bowman, yields this space so others can address topics that are important to the community. This week, he yields to Gray’s Creek resident Janice Burton to share the letter she sent to North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Michael Regan.Burton is the former associate publisher of Up & Coming Weekly.
Secretary Regan:I am one of many citizens who live in the Gray’s Creek community and who are threatened by the chemical contamination by Chemours. I know that there are literally thousand of us who are nameless and faceless people whose stories you do not know and, from decisions made by your department, do not care about.
But I care, so if you will indulge me, I would like to share them with you.
Cumberland County is known as a place of history, heroes and a hometown feeling. Gray’s Creek is the embodiment of that. For centuries, the founding families of this community have lived, worked and worshipped here. I back this up by mentioning the McNeill family that still has the land grant that the King of England issued to their family prior to the American Revolution. They, and people like the Riddles and the Canadys, have farmed their lands and provided fresh vegetables for their families and their neighbors. Now, they are afraid to farm their land, let alone feed their produce to their families or sell it to their neighbors. Chemours and you, by failure to act in a responsible manner, are killing that proud history and heritage.
Heroes. Over the past two decades, soldiers and their families have moved into the community seeking peace and quiet — far from the gates of Fort Bragg. That is my story and those of many other military families — my husband was deployed 13 years of my son’s 19 years of life. We moved to the area, found a church family filled with those families who settled this ground, and who took us in and made us family.
My husband found peace and friendship with the old men who gather to drink coffee at the corner store. They call it getting the news, but it’s a community and that’s what those heroes who moved here were looking for. These men who literally have fought for 20 years and came back alive now have an enemy they can’t fight, and they can’t protect home and hearth because you gave Chemours an out to do the least amount possible.
Every single house that has contamination should have a full home system put in — not a stopgap measure. Daily, new reports are coming out that are proving that the PFAS go through the skin — so giving us drinking water and sink systems isn’t helping. They (Chemours), and you by lack of responsible action, still have a loaded gun pointed at all of us.As the person who is supposed to protect our health, you are the one pulling the trigger. I have told you about our community and the stories of the people who live here. But you need to know these people, my family, deserve more than the minimum. The people of Cumberland County should not have to bear the burden of paying for water to be extended — and we shouldn’t have to wait for years and continue being poisoned.
Chemours’ pockets are deep and you have the ability to make them do the right thing — right now. Not after it is too late. You need to step up to the plate and take care of the people you are sworn to protect. Whole-house systems for every affected home or immediate expansion of water to everyone, paid for by Chemours, are the only two options that are acceptable.
I urge you to do the right thing for the people of this community — not for the deep pockets of Chemours.
Gray’s Creek resident
Thanks to Chemours, local farmers who have worked the land for generations are afraid to farm their lands, much less feed their produce to their families and neighbors.