Thursday, June 15, 2017

Local environmental issue

If you have been paying attention to the news, you haven't escaped the recent story about an emerging contaminant being discovered in the Cape Fear River and in our drinking water.

The contaminant is known as GenX, a chemical produced by a company named Chemours and used in making Teflon for non-stick pans. Teflon is also used in nail polish, windshield wiper blades, carpet protection and clothing like Gore-Tex. Teflon used to be produced with a chemical called C8, but C8 was discovered to be toxic.  GenX is the replacement product, and we don't know much about it yet. As a result, there are no standards (allowable levels) for this chemical. This is why GenX is classified by the EPA as an emerging contaminant. We don't know enough about it yet to have regulations in place.  

More reading here, and here. Note that the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority has known about this for many months.

Listen to an interview with Dr. Larry Cahoon of UNCW here.

Here is a map of the area where CFPUA distributes public water from the Cape Fear (notice that our campus is right in the middle of it).

How would we analyze this issue using the tools from our course?
Could we do a cost-benefit analysis of some sort?
Perhaps a valuation study? 


Jacob Goetsch said...

I believe using a cost-benefit analysis would be the smart thing to use while conducting this study. Taxing the companies using the product could also be a possible solution if found to be toxic. Finding incentives to push the users to find a replacement would also be a great option.

Andrew Riley said...

I agree with Jacob that there should be cost-benefit analysis used. A Pigouvian Tax could also be imposed to compensate for each units toxic negative externalities. There could also be less taxes on substitutes of the toxic GenX.

Shea Amdur said...

I think a command and control placement may be needed for this situation. If it is found to be a harmful chemical to those consuming the drinking water then the EPA should step in and place regulations on how much if any of the chemical can be released into the water.

Catherine Whitesell said...

We received a campus email today explaining that the campus is keeping a watch on this situation as more information regarding the chemical 'GenX' becomes available to the public. I understand the concerns, and it can be a large health issue if this chemical is found to cause harm to the public. I know I personally drink a lot of water from the public water system which is said to be contaminated. A health-based performance standard may need to be implemented. I know they are implemented for other food/drink service concerns. And a cost-benefit analysis should also be in the works. I hope this turns out to not be too bad of a contamination issue.