GenX, Environmental Justice, and North Carolina's Legacy of Pollution

GenX, Environmental Justice, and North Carolina's Legacy of Pollution

Here in the Wilmington, much of the public is concerned about the quality of the drinking water.  Apparently, a subsidiary of the chemical giant Dupont, Chemours Company, dumps it's waste into the Cape Fear River about 70 miles upstream of where Wilmington extracts water for public use (see map above).  While Dupont has done this for at least 30 years, recent detection of the chemical "GenX" in the water supply has caused a local and national stir

GenX is related to the production of Teflon, a chemical beloved by many for it's 'non stick' qualities and used everywhere from cooking utensils, to clothes, to automobile windshields.  Still, no one recommends the stuff should be ingested directly.  The chemical is not well understood, but the nature of its chemical composition points to a potential carcinogen and serious public health threat.

You can read more about GenX and North Carolina's historical and social context enabling the dumping of industrial chemicals into community water supply in a recent report written by last semester's Coastal and Ocean Policy seminar class. The class maps out a long and complex social history outlining the political power industry interests exercise over the public health and well being concerns. 

The class recommends directions for moving forward: 

  1. Evaluate the current enforcement of the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Toxic Substance Control Act and strengthen the commitment to reach the goals.
  2. Force the polluters to pay for the treatment process to clean the water to the drinking water standards defined by EPA.
  3. Provide framework for interagency coordination and/or a neutral advisory panel.
  4. Increase the dissemination of information and education to raise the awareness of how to advocate for communities faced with pollution and emerging contaminants.


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