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The Cape Fear River runs down the eastern half of North Carolina,
passing by major cities before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean.
Right here, at the bottom of the river basin, is Wilmington – a city known for its iconic
riverwalk.
That's where you'll find this sign, describing the importance of this river to the region:
“It flows southeast for 200 miles… has the largest basin in the state, covering more
than 9,000 square miles… [and] drainage from 4 cities and runoff from factories, farms
and homesites in 29 counties flows into it.”
This river system provides water to the entire basin and the Cape Fear is one of Wilmington's
main sources of drinking water.
A nationwide test of tap water recently ranked both Wilmington and neighboring Brunswick
County in the top five for high levels of PFAS contamination — a group of chemicals
found in many everyday products.
Anything that has water repellant in it, stain resistance in it, fire retardant, popcorn bags
... popcorn bags and dental floss and pizza boxes...
... pizza boxes, rain gear, sleeping bags, food containers...
...food containers and makeup.
It's everywhere.
Tracing the sources of chemicals in this North Carolina river tells you exactly how the water
got so contaminated...  … and it also tells you how chemical companies
are getting away with polluting our drinking water — not just here, but throughout the
United States.
This happens to be ground zero for these chemicals being discharged into the water and the air.
99% of all Americans have this in their blood.
Yet another chemical compound found in the Cape Fear River...
Chemicals used in consumer products like firefighting foam and nonstick products...
... could lead to cancer...
... prompting concerns about the drinking water in Southeastern North Carolina.
It has a lot of different names.
But it's basically what they call “forever chemicals” — they're long-chain fluorocarbons
designed to withstand any kind of breakdown.
Forever chemicals, or “PFAS”, have strong molecular bonds that repel oil, water, and
stains and can withstand extreme heat, making them almost indestructible.
It was actually invented to coat tanks and military instruments and weaponry to protect
it from the elements.
Chemical companies like DuPont have been making PFAS since the 1930s.
All around us are the product of modern chemistry...
Even burnt food won't stick to Teflon...
Choose a DuPont nonstick...
There's nothing like DuPont.
Now, there are nearly 5,000 different forever chemicals, and “PFAS” is an umbrella term
for all of them.
One of them, PFOA, was used by DuPont to make Teflon.
Also known as C8, it was the subject of a 2001 class action lawsuit claiming DuPont
contaminated drinking water in Ohio and West Virginia.
PFAS chemicals accumulate in our bodies and that build-up can cause health problems long
afterwards.
You can't see it, and you can't taste it, and the kinds of impacts that occur with it
take some time to develop.
As a result of the lawsuit, DuPont funded a science panel that, in 2012, found probable
links between C8 exposure and health problems like cancer after testing almost 70,000 people
in the area.
Five years later, DuPont settled without admitting any wrongdoing, despite evidence that they
had known for decades about the harmful effects of PFAS.
They had also agreed to stop making C8.
But by then, PFAS contamination had cropped up elsewhere.
The Cape Fear River Basin begins here, near the city of Greensboro.
In water samples taken from lakes in the area, researchers found a forever chemical called
“PFOS”.
It was coming from here: The Piedmont Triad International Airport.
PFOS is in the firefighting foam... … used during training exercises conducted
at airports like the one here.   … and that runoff flows into the upper river
basin.
Farther down on the Haw River—a tributary of the Cape Fear— forever chemicals are
coming from a different source.
The people that do know about it, they don't drink the water.
There's people considering leaving because they don't feel like their water is safe.
Emily Sutton is a conservationist who tests the Haw River for contamination.
This spot in the Haw is directly impacted by the PFAS load that's coming directly from
Burlington's East Wastewater Treatment Plant.
It's about 300 yards upstream.
Filters at the treatment facility are not designed to remove PFAS.
So wastewater coming from nearby industries arrives and leaves containing similar levels
of PFAS contamination.
Their effluent from the wastewater treatment plant comes directly into the Haw.
We know that the city of Burlington's wastewater treatment plant is the main source for PFAS,
but they're not necessarily creating the PFAS.
It's all of these different industries that are sending their waste to that wastewater
treatment plant.
A few miles downriver,a water sample taken from beneath a bridge crossing the Haw showed
high levels of PFAS.
And as the river flows down towards Wilmington, chemicals from other sources accumulate and
push PFAS levels even higher near the city.
But it's not just the levels that start to change.
If you look at the kinds of PFAS in that sample, you'll notice something else in the water.
A newer type of forever chemical called GenX.
It came from here, at the Chemours chemical plant, located between the two sample sites.
The plant released wastewater into the Cape Fear River containing GenX, and also emitted
the chemical into the air — where it settles on nearby land and entered the river as runoff.
70 miles downstream, an intake pipe pulls in river water and supplies it to Wilmington.
The discovery of GenX in Wilmington's drinking water was front page news in 2017…
When we woke up and saw the Star News article that Gen X was in our water, a group of citizens,
we all got together around a dining room table and realized that we needed to address this
head on.
Two years later Emily Donovan submitted water samples from Wilmington and Brunswick County
to a nationwide study measuring PFAS levels in tap water.
Her Brunswick County sample came from Belville Elementary School.
I went back to my kids school, because I was curious to see what they were still drinking.
That sample was the highest reported in that study.
And that was devastating.
I mean, nobody wants to be at the top of that list.
I think back now to maybe what we might have accidentally been exposed to, while we were
on the banks of the Cape Fear River letting our kids play.
I mean, I've got photos, and I go back and look at them, and I'm thinking to myself:
“What were we wading in?"
Millions of people depend on The Cape Fear River Basin for their water, but throughout
the country other Americans are drinking forever chemicals.
What you think is happening in North Carolina is staying there.
It's just not the case.
It's everywhere.
Communities in Michigan, New York, California, Pennsylvania and elsewhere have discovered
PFAS in their drinking water.
This map shows PFAS contamination across the US.
And many communities have yet to be tested.
The answer here is not to put the burden of safety on the homeowner, on the consumer.
You have to stop these pollutants at the source.
The real problem is at the regulatory level.
In America, it falls to us, the ordinary people, to prove that these chemicals are toxic, before
the chemical is regulated by our government.
That is simply backwards.
There's something that's called the precautionary principle — and we don't really apply it
here in the United States — but what it says is: before you can bring a chemical to
the market, you've got to prove that that chemical is safe for the consumer.
We have the inverse of that.
I've been arguing for some time about our country and our state adopting a precautionary
principle, which means don't put anything in the air or water that you think is not safe.
Right now, companies can sell products without declaring all the chemicals they contain,
even if they're harmful for consumers.
So we're left with tens of thousands of chemicals on the market that we have no idea whether
they're safe for consumption or not.
But with a precautionary principle in place, the government adds a preventive check — by
requiring companies to prove the safety of the chemicals in their products before they
reach consumers.
If I knew that I could potentially get cancer by having stain resistant carpet, then I would
make a better decision for myself.
But I'm not even given that choice right now.
And knowing which chemicals are toxic would allow the government to look for those contaminants
in the air and water, while also requiring companies to filter chemicals out of their wastewater
North Carolina is the perfect example where there is nothing.
When we don't have any information, we don't know how to assess them and address them,
so they don't get talked about.
Without a precautionary principle, chemicals like GenX can go unchecked.
And even when companies get caught for one toxic chemical, they can replace it with another.
When DuPont agreed to stop making the Teflon PFAS “C8” by 2015, C8 blood levels dropped
for the average American.
But in the meantime, DuPont introduced a new chemical in 2009 to replace C8,
and in 2015 spun off a new company — Chemours — to produce it in North Carolina.
That new chemical was GenX.
It's just this game of Whac-A-Mole, that one gets regulated, and you have a new one pop up.
As forever chemicals become a nationwide conversation, some states are starting to respond.
Washington state, San Francisco, and Maine have banned PFAS in food packaging, and many
states have proposed prohibited firefighting foam containing PFAS, including North Carolina.
But a larger effort to eliminate PFAS chemicals is still pending.
There is still no legal requirement to filter PFAS from tap water, so more than 100 million
Americans are likely drinking water contaminated with PFAS.
I think protecting public water and public health isn't really controversial.
But how we get there, as you know, industry's got a lot at stake here.
It stays out there forever, and it accumulates in us.
So we all have a stake in this.
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"永遠的化學品 "是如何汙染美國水的?

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林宜悉 發佈於 2020 年 8 月 6 日
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