Chemical Companies Don’t Just Dump Toxic PFAS Into Rivers From Which People Derive Their Drinking Water, Right?

The Chemours Company (spinoff of Dupont) discharging waste into Cape Fear River. From NRDC

Chemical companies don’t just dump this stuff into rivers from which people derive their drinking water, right?

Cape Fear River watershed — which supplies drinking water for around 350,000 North Carolinians — remains contaminated with the perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that DuPont, and its spin-off, Chemours, dumped into the river for more than four decades.

Four decades is a long time to be dumping “forever chemicals” that don’t easily break down, that accumulate in soil, water, animals, and people’s bodies, that have horrendous health effects.

From: The Drinking Water Crisis That North Carolina Ignored, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), June 2021

The water in the whole state of North Carolina is a mess.

Just west of Wilmington’s Hanover County sits Brunswick County, which a 2019 Environmental Working Group study found to have by far the highest PFAS levels in its tap water out of the 44 places it analyzed across the country.

Farther north in the watershed of the Haw River, a Cape Fear tributary, PFAS contamination is also a problem.

It’s a mess because North Carolina likes having big chemical companies as part of their revenue base.

North Carolina is currently reviewing its water quality standards, something it does every three years, but not one rule for PFAS pollution is even up for consideration. “People know they’re being poisoned, but the state isn’t doing much about it,” [NRDC attorney Corinne] Bell says.

That article from NRDC was posted in June of this year. In October, 4 months later, the EPA said that the PFAS chemicals in North Carolina’s Cape Fear River “are more toxic than a Trump-era assessment found.” The old standard is more than 3 times higher than the new standard.

EPA Finds Chemical Contaminating North Carolina River More Toxic Than Previously Assessed, The Hill, 25 October 2021

It’s now safe to ingest “GenX” chemicals at a level of only three-millionths of a milligram per kilogram of body weight each day.

A 2018 draft report from the agency said it was safe to ingest eight-hundred-thousandths of a milligram per kilogram of body weight.

GenX chemicals:

GenX is part of a class of chemicals known as PFAS, which have been linked to a range of health issues. PFAS are sometimes called “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down easily and persist in people’s bodies and the environment.

And just last week, 16 November, the EPA said:

Negative health effects may occur at much lower levels of exposure to PFOA and PFOS than previously understood and that PFOA is a likely carcinogen.

A likely carcinogen? This is a map of thyroid cancer clusters in North Carolina. The red area in the lower right is downstream from Chemours’ Fayetteville plant:

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