Since 2017, the CEC and Center researchers have been working with communities along the Cape Fear River who are impacted by PFAS chemicals in drinking water. More recently, we have been learning how to address exposure through air and soil. We have used a variety of engagement approaches to support researchers and impacted communities on this issue. A lot of our work has been hosting, helping facilitate, and attending community meetings and events on the topic. In many cases, impacted community members want the ability to voice their questions and concerns directly to researchers- the CEC helps provide this. In addition, we are engaging communities around PFAS through:
In 2017, the Haw River Assembly was awarded one of our Community Grants to assess levels of PFAS in the Upper Cape Fear and Haw Rivers. The group used the data they collected with the grant funding to inform the public, work with local and state agencies to make recommendations to address contamination, and work with other statewide advocacy groups to promote more protective legislation to prevent further contamination. They also worked with legal advisors at Southern Environmental Law Center to inform policy and educate state agencies on what tools were available to immediately address discharges of these toxic compounds. Haw Riverkeeper, Emily Sutton, presented this work at the 2018 CHHE Research Symposium (right).
NC PFAST Network
The CEC participates in the NC PFAST Network, a statewide research collaboration testing for current levels of PFAS chemicals in drinking water and air samples across North Carolina. Ms. May is on the Communications Team (Team 6), helping to share research findings with stakeholders and the public, and training Network researchers in best practices for effectively communicating about these emerging contaminants.
The GenX Exposure Study
The CEC works with investigators on the GenX Exposure Study to support the engagement and report-back efforts. Our work has been focused on communities in Wilmington and Fayetteville, NC. The GenX Exposure Study is assessing human exposure to GenX and related chemicals in people living in the Lower Cape Fear River Basin. To learn more about the study, visit genXStudy.ncsu.edu.
Although many of these chemicals are considered “emerging contaminants,” and don’t have as much toxicology or human health data as we’d like, there are many good resources out there to learn more about them. Six Classes from the Green Science Policy Institute has some good information on where we might find PFAS in our daily lives, and what we can do about them. NIEHS (the federal agency that funds CHHE and our community engagement work) has information on all the PFAS research they are funding, and a four-page fact sheet with a lot of the science behind PFAS chemicals.