Maysville residents share fears with leaders during emergency water meeting

Published: Jun. 11, 2019 at 5:48 PM EDT
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Maysville town leaders are considering their options to remove a man-made chemical from the water supply.

At an emergency meeting Thursday night, a Duke University professor told leaders the substances detected in Maysville's water are consistent with those found in firefighting foam.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were detected in Maysville's water during state testing in May.

The chemicals have no taste, color or smell and no one knows how long the water has been contaminated.

"This is something that has everybody scared," said Maysville resident Lisa Bird.

Professors from Duke University and N.C. State University joined Thursday's emergency meeting by video call to share information about PFAS. They said the chemicals have not shown up in other towns.

Duke University professor Lee Ferguson said, "It seems clear that it's a localized contamination issue."

The chemical substances are used to make items like nonstick cookware, water repellent clothing and other items, but they are also found in firefighting foam.

Researchers say the testing suggests the contamination in Maysville is from such foam, but the town manager says it isn't used by the Maysville Fire Department.

"They do call it a forever substance because it never goes away," said Schumata Brown.

Experts say PFAS are dangerous at these levels when ingested and have been linked to liver damage and some cancers. However, there is no danger in touching contaminated water.

However, town manager Schumata Brown says technically Maysville's water is still safe to drink because it meets federal regulations and standards because the PFAS chemicals are not regulated.

Brown says the decision to move the town onto the county's water supply was done out of an abundance of caution.

Several local residents expressed strong concerns over the risks.

One woman said before the group gathered Thursday night, "this is gonna kill this town if they don't grab it by the horns and fight it with everything they've got."

Town Commissioners pushed back when they were accused of not doing enough to fix the problem.

Commissioner Cara Dunn said, "I'm upset because all I hear and all I see is people saying we don't care. I put my job on the line to be here tonight because I don't know what's going on. I'm scared just like everybody else."

The town's leaders are considering digging a new water well or adding a filter to fix the contamination but it could be a year before households are put back on the town's water supply. Leaders are also looking into possible state and federal grant money options to help pay for the clean-up.

For now, the town is using Jones County's water.


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Town leaders in Maysville are holding a special meeting Thursday after high levels of man-made chemicals were found in the water supply.

Leaders will meet to figure out what to do next.

High levels of PFAS, also known as per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, were found in the town's water system during state testing in May.

PFAS are man-made chemicals that are used in things like non-stick cookware, water-repellent clothing, and some cosmetics.

Initial tests show the levels were more than twice the recommended safe level for drinking water.

For now, the town has switched to Jones County's water supply as a precaution.

Town leaders will discuss their options for the next steps at Thursday night's meeting.


One Eastern Carolina town has shut down its water wells and switched to county water after high levels of a man-made chemical were found.

Maysville leaders will meet Thursday night to discuss the high levels of PFAS detected in the town's water system.

PFAS, also known as per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are used in nonstick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain-resistant fabrics and carpets, some cosmetics, some firefighting foams, and products that resist grease, water, and oil.

Out of an abundance of caution, on Monday the town switched to Jones County Water to supply the town.

The chemical, which does not break down, is not normally checked in water supplies. The town said it was detected in a raw water sample collected on May 7th by the NC Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances Testing Network.

Initial tests show the level of the chemical to be more than twice the recommended safe level in drinking water.

"We are not like Wilmington, with heavy industry that uses these chemicals in production, and we do not have a fire fighting training center that uses fire fighting foam so having the tests show a high level of PFAS raises concerns," town manager Schumata Brown said.

The health risks from PFAS chemicals are still hotly debated.

Maysville is also asking state lawmakers for help in coming up with funding so that the chemical can be removed from the town's water supply.

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