The event will be the fourth hosted by the EPA

FAYETTEVILLE -- In its effort to determine what steps to take on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), the Environmental Protection Agency will visit Fayetteville on Tuesday.

The all-day event will feature wide-ranging discussions, as well as a five-hour public comment period.

North Carolina residents have been exposed to PFAS chemicals ranging from GenX in the Cape Fear River to PFOA in firefighting foam on military bases to PFOS in drinking water in Greensboro. Tuesday's meeting represents a chance for governments and communities to help shape the EPA's response to the contamination.

>>READ MORE: Complete coverage of GenX contamination

Why are these events happening?

The EPA has hosted three events so far, with locations including Exeter, New Hampshire; Horsham, Pennsylvania; and Colorado Springs, Colorado. According to the EPA's website, the agency "intends to hear directly from the public on how to best help states and communities facing this issue."

Information collected will, per the EPA, be used to help craft a PFAS Management Plan that will be released later in 2018.

"I think that the EPA is going to do a lot of listening here," said Kemp Burdette, the Cape Fear Riverkeeper. "I don't think there's going to be a whole lot of commitments made by the EPA on anything. I think they're really just trying to show that they are open to hearing what communities have to say."

Who's speaking?

Tuesday morning and early afternoon will feature a working session with three separate panel discussions. At 3 p.m., members of the public will be able to speak during a listening session.

Introductions will include remarks from, among others, Trey Glenn, the EPA regional administrator for the southeast; Michael Regan, the secretary of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality; and Peter Grevatt, the director of the EPA's office of ground water and drinking water.

The first presentation Tuesday will be a science panel, featuring the acting director of the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's toxicology and human health division, three EPA representative and the director of the N.C. Division of Water Resources.

That will be followed at noon by a local issues panel with Cape Fear Public Utility Authority Director of Engineering Carel Vandermeyden; Mike Abraczinskas, the director of the N.C. Division of Air Quality; and Michael Scott, the director of the N.C. Division of Waste Management. There will also be representatives from the EPA and Greensboro on that panel.

At 1 p.m., Emily Donovan of Clean Cape Fear and Burdette will speak on a community panel.

Burdette said Friday, "We're basically going to be telling the story there, very quickly summarizing the issue and then going over what we want to see the EPA do or encourage others to do related to the issue."

The presentation will follow a model set by community groups in New England during the first PFAS community engagement event.

How have they gone elsewhere?

The first day of the New Hampshire event featured presentations by New England-based community groups, as well as comments from members of the public who have been impacted by PFAS contamination.

Andrea Amico of Testing for Pease, a community group focused on contamination at the former Pease Air Force Base in New Hampshire, said, "There was some anger, there was lots of frustration, there was lots of talk about health effects and, really, a call for action now -- we can't wait anymore."

A panel featuring staff from each New England state's environmental agency also interested Amico, largely because they each had a chance to answer every question.

"It was fascinating to me how incredibly different the answers were by each state," Amico said, adding she believes the differences are partly a consequence of the EPA's failure so far to act on PFAS.

In Colorado Springs, Colorado, a listening session was held during the evening on August 7. Sonya Lunder, the senior toxics policy advisor for the Sierra Cub, attended that meeting and said it featured a variety of perspectives about how PFAS chemicals have touched communities, including a plumber discussing how he's struggled to best dispose of contaminated water filters he has removed from homes.

Lunder said, "Really important pieces of the exposure puzzle are pointed out through community experience. The EPA was very tight-lipped about anything they are planning to do with results of the testimony."

What's next?

The EPA has laid out a series of action plans to address PFAS chemicals. By fall, its website has stated, the agency plans to develop a PFAS management plan.

The agency has also announced that it plans to develop human health toxicity values for GenX and PFBS during the summer of 2018.

Additionally, the agency is working to develop groundwater cleanup recommendations for PFOA and PFOS chemicals.

Reporter Adam Wagner can be reached at 910-343-2389 or Adam.Wagner@GateHouseMedia.com.