Carbon Filtration Seems to Be an Effective Treatment for GenX

Carbon filters appear to be effective at screening GenX from drinking water in private wells and municipal water systems near a Chemours plant in West Virginia, federal regulators have reported. That should be encouraging news for thousands of homeowners in southeastern North Carolina whose drinking water has been contaminated with GenX and perhaps more than a dozen other chemicals released by Chemours and DuPont since at least 1980.  It should also be good news for other other GenX-contaminated areas.

Late in 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency directed Chemours to test 10 private wells and four public water supplies for GenX near its Washington Works plant in West Virginia. Nine of the 14 wells were found to contain the chemical, but none had detectable levels after the water passed through granual activated carbon filters.

DuPont began producing GenX around 2009 at its Fayetteville Works plant because the compound was considered a safer alternative to perfluorooctanoic acid — also known as PFOA or C8. GenX was then shipped to a DuPont plant near Parkersburg, West Virginia, for final production of Teflon and other slippery coatings. Chemours spun off from DuPont in 2015.

Later high levels of GenX were found in Wilmington, NC drinking water, which comes from the Cape Fear River. Since then, researchers have discovered 190 private wells surrounding the Fayetteville Works plant that contain GenX at levels exceeding what the state considers safe for drinking water. (The effect of GenX on humans isn’t known, but animal studies link it to several forms of cancer.)

The EPA ordered Chemours to test for GenX in Ohio and West Virginia after the discovery in North Carolina. The 14 wells and municipal water systems have used granular activated carbon filtration systems for years, after DuPont was ordered to install them because of earlier high levels of C8 contamination.

The EPA found that the filters initially installed to combat C8 contamination is effectively removing GenX as well. 

“At this time, no GenX was found in treated drinking water that came from contaminated wells,” the EPA said in an April 2018 statement.

The Cape Fear Utility Authority, which is also conducting tests with carbon filtration, found that its filters reduce greatly but do not completely eliminate 1, 4 dioxane.

Researchers believe that the GAC filters being tested can reduce greatly but not eliminate all perfluorinated compounds from treated water.

Adapted from The Fayetteville Observer.

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