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Posted on: October 26, 2021

CFPUA statement on EPA’s GenX toxicity assessment

Bend in Cape Fear River

CFPUA staff are working with their partners at the State to understand the federal human health toxicity assessment for GenX released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday, October 25.

Among other things, EPA’s toxicity assessment includes reference doses for chronic (lifetime) and subchronic (less than lifetime) exposure to GenX. A reference dose is defined as the daily dose below which health effects are not expected in human populations. EPA has indicated that it will use the reference doses to develop a health advisory for GenX, which it intends to release in spring 2022.  

According to a statement released to the media, the N.C. Department Health and Human Services stated it “is not updating the current provisional drinking water health goal for GenX [140 ppt] in order to maintain alignment with the EPA’s scientific guidance. We anticipate that the current provisional drinking water health goal will likely be replaced by EPA’s national health advisory level for GenX in drinking water when that becomes available.” 

CFPUA has been regularly monitoring for GenX and other PFAS in the Cape Fear River since 2017, when representatives from Chemours told our community that it and DuPont had been releasing GenX since 1980 from their industrial plant on the river upstream from CFPUA’s raw water intakes at Kings Bluff. GenX is among a group of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that State regulators have tied to Chemours’ operations and that continue to be detected in the Cape Fear. 

To address Chemours’ PFAS, CFPUA began construction in November 2019 on eight new granular activated carbon (GAC) filters at the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant, which treats raw water sourced from the Cape Fear River. GenX is among the compounds these filters were specifically designed to treat. EPA scientists have used CFPUA’s data to gauge expected treatment efficiency. This EPA model indicates that, at the levels of GenX recently detected in the river, the new filters should be expected to reduce GenX to below 1 ppt in the treated water throughout the useful life of the GAC. The new filters are scheduled to come online in June 2022. 

While construction proceeds on the new filters, CFPUA has been exchanging GAC in existing filters at Sweeney to provide some PFAS reduction. The CFPUA Board in September approved an additional exchange of GAC in existing filters at Sweeney to extend this interim protective measure until the new filters begin operation. 

Construction of the new filters is costing $46 million. Millions of additional dollars have been spent by CFPUA to address Chemours’ and DuPont’s PFAS contamination. CFPUA believes Chemours and DuPont, not its customers, should be responsible for these and other costs related to the companies’ actions. Neither company has stepped forward to accept this responsibility, so CFPUA has sued them in federal district court on behalf of its customers. 

“While our community leaders have moved to address the issue of GenX decisively through the construction of these new filters, the work to hold the responsible parties accountable continues,” said CFPUA Executive Director Kenneth Waldroup. “It is time for Chemours to step up now and provide the same level of relief it is undertaking for similarly situated residents in Bladen, Cumberland, and Robeson counties. If this company is to live up to its stated corporate values, it must act now, instead of waiting for the courts to enforce corporate responsibility.”