With regard to the granular activated carbon system, one resident said, 'I’m not accepting it. Give me municipal water or they can buy my house.'
Two residents participating in a pilot study that is testing whether water filter systems can remove GenX and similar contaminants say they prefer municipal water lines.
The residents — Mike Watters and Fran Minshew — said they made the decision after seeing test results Chemours sent to the state Department of Environmental Quality. Their homes are among six with the granular-activated carbon filtration systems.
A Chemours spokeswoman said more recent test results show the filters are effectively removing GenX from the water.
Chemours officials have said the company believes the filter systems are an effective way to remove GenX and other similar compounds from water. The company makes GenX at its Bladen County plant. The chemical also is a byproduct of other processes there.
The effects of GenX on humans have not been studied, but the compound has been linked to several forms of cancer in animal studies. The chemical has been found in hundreds of private wells near the plant.
Chemours has offered to install the filter systems at homes with wells that have GenX levels above the state’s provisional health goal for the compound. Thus far, the state has said the filters would not be approved as a long-term solution.
Watters and Minshew had been encouraged by early test results from the filtering systems. Reports from those tests showed that GenX and similar compounds were not detected in water that had gone through the systems, according to state records.
Reports provided to Watters from tests done by Chemours are less clear.
Watters, who had said that he would champion the filter systems if they removed the compounds, made a public records request for the company’s reports, initially getting a spreadsheet showing the results and then the lab results. He said he believes both are incomplete, but the information provided concerned him.
Some of those results show the filters stopping the chemicals, but others show them letting at least trace amounts through.
“I’m not convinced it works, based on minor stuff getting through in less than 60 days,” he said.
Cynthia Salitsky, a Chemours spokeswoman, said the results provided by the state do not include results from tests done June 7. Those results show no detection of any of the tested substances after either of the carbon filters in the systems.
“Based on the totality of the results we’ve seen, we are confident that the carbon is effectively removing all the compounds and represents the best long-term solution,” she said.
An independent company analyzing the samples said it is common to see low detection levels in early tests, Salitsky said.
Watters said nearly all of his neighbors also want municipal water.
With regard to the granular activated carbon system, Watters said, “I’m not accepting it. Give me municipal water or they can buy my house.”
Minshew said the people she has talked to feel the same way. In addition to concerns about the filters’ effectiveness, she worries about future maintenance of the systems.
Workers come out to work on the filter systems every week, Minshew said.
“I don’t think they’re going to come out and service them like they are now,” she said. “I just think I’d be better off if I take the municipal water.”
Salitsky said installing municipal water lines can take years and isn’t feasible in some areas. The filter systems can be implemented much quicker and allow residents to stop having to drink bottled water, she said.
“Many residents have told us that relying on bottled drinking water is very inconvenient,” she said.
The state Department of Environmental Quality has said it does not consider the filters to be a long-term final solution except in areas where there is no safe alternative or where it is preferred by the homeowner. Michael Scott, director of the department’s Division of Waste Management, said that position hasn’t changed.
The department is waiting for all the results of the pilot study before deciding whether the filters can be an intermediate solution to the contamination, Scott said.
“We want to look at the data collectively,” he said.
The pilot study is expected to continue at least through the end of this month. Scott said state officials likely will hold a community meeting after the results from the final tests become available in late August or early September.
State officials want to know if the filter systems are effective and, if they are, how often they need to be serviced. When that information is available, they’ll ask the residents whether they prefer the systems or municipal water, Scott said.
“We just want to make an informed decision with the community,” he said.
Staff writer Steve DeVane can be reached at email@example.com or 486-3572.