WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Politics got personal for one elected official in Brunswick County.
Jeff Gerken, H2GO board chairman says he feels threatened after the group Clean Cape Fear posted his picture to Facebook along with what he calls “inflammatory statements.”
The picture was posted Wednesday night following the Cape Fear River Watch meeting to discuss the consent order between Cape Fear River Watch, The NCDEQ, and Chemours.
“I was very impressed with the meeting but sometime later that evening a picture of me was put onto Facebook with a circle around my face and an arrow pointing at my head and some inflammatory statements about my involvement as a commissioner of H2GO,” Gerken said. The combination of the two, I think constitutes, at least I feel is a threat. If there had simply been the comments, that’s one thing. But when they put a circle around my face and an arrow pointing at my head that’s beyond the pale, that’s gone too far.”
Clean Cape Fear is an alliance composed of clean water advocacy groups. Member Emily Donovan said they routinely call out elected officials they believe should be held accountable.
"Hey Leland Area Residents--this guy is the chair of the H2GO water commission. We spotted him tonight at the Chemours Consent Order info session. He’s spent the past two years blocking Leland’s access to toxic free water. We feel, in our opinion, he’s been consistently on the wrong side of science and the human harm PFAS exposure causes.
Because of him--Leland residents--including thousands of children, won't be drinking clean RO water from an aquifer next month. Commissioner Gerken refuses to finish construction on a half built water plant that was scheduled to open January 2019. That's $5 million worth of ratepayer money wasted.
If this bothers you, please send him an email letting him know Leland families deserve better.
The post blames Gerken for preventing clean water access in the Leland area.
He says the combination of the picture and the comments overwelmed him."
Clean Cape Fear responded to these concerns in a statement sent to WECT. The statement reads:
“Frankly, we’re a bit surprised this is even worthy of airtime. Part of Clean Cape Fear’s mission is to promote access to clean, safe drinking water by holding elected officials accountable, Chairman Gerken is no different. Brunswick county’s pediatric cancer and birth defect rates are higher than the state average. Brunswick County’s water tends to have higher levels of PFAS than CFPUA customers. In November of 2017, a majority of Leland residents voted for water commission candidates that supported building H2GO’s Reverse Osmosis plant. The public elected two pro-RO candidates and the third pro-RO candidate lost by only 18 votes. It’s been over a year and Chairman Gerken has delayed building H2GO’s RO plant, indefinitely.”
“If you read the comments that are posted on that Facebook page it seems to indicate I’m the only person opposed to that plant. I think it’s important to remember Trudy Trombley, Bill Beer and I were elected to our positions on the basis of our opposition to the reverse osmois plant. Our position has not changed since we were elected,” said Gerken.
The reverse osmosis plant has been the subject of heated debate for the past few years. Gerken said he is used to the heightened tensions surrounding the subject, but thinks this went too far.
“I’m not concerned about emails, I’m not concerned about the words. What I am concerned about is something that appears to be a target around my head to convince somebody else to take actions that would not be correct,” he said.
The H2GO Board of Commissioners will meet for their regularly scheduled meeting Monday night.