Local leaders send letter to Chemours; NHC commissioner Watkins 'sick and tired' of company's silence

Local leaders send letter to Chemours; NHC commissioner Watkins 'sick and tired' of company's silence

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Wilmington leaders have once again invited officials from the Chemours Company to join them for a discussion on chemicals in our drinking water.

Mayor Bill Saffo and New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chairman Woody White sent a letter to Kathleen O'Keefe, Chemours' product sustainability director, asking the company "to meet directly with our citizens, in our community, to discuss progress made and future strategies to clean up our drinking water supply."

The letter goes on to state a city or county facility will be made available for the meeting.

"We think it is important to continue the dialogue and outreach over the status of efforts to remove GenX and related perfluorinated compounds from our drinking water," the letter reads.

In June 2017, six Chemours representatives met behind closed doors with Wilmington and New Hanover County leaders. When asked afterward about the meeting, Chemours Corporate Communications Manager Gary Cambre declined comment, adding he would only answer written questions through email.

On June 20, 2017, Wilmington City Council passed a resolution calling for a public meeting by the end of July 2017. That meeting never happened.

Chemours' first public meeting on GenX was held in Robeson County on June 12, 2018. People had to submit written questions and many of the residents who attended called the meeting a waste of time.

In the WECT Digital Studio on Friday, New Hanover County Commissioner Skip Watkins said he is "sick and tired of quietness and silence" from Chemours.

"Everybody deserves the right to know what's going on and we're asking them to come to the table," Watkins said.

Watkins discussed a private meeting between Chemours officials, state legislators, New Hanover County, City of Wilmington, Pender and Brunswick county leaders seven days after the GenX news broke. If it weren't for that meeting, Watkins said, knowledge of perfluorinated compounds being discharged into the Cape Fear River for the last 37 years may not have come to light.

As a member of the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority board, Watkins has been present for litigation talks with Chemours and while he can't discuss specifics, he did say completely stopping GenX discharge isn't likely.

"The 99 percent number we've heard about — (Chemours) trying to eliminate their discharges up to 99 percent — that's probably about the hardest number you're gonna get," Watkins said. "It's almost impossible to totally stop it."

See the PDF below to read the letter Saffo and White sent to Chemours.

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