Water experts identify source of ‘hazardous compound’ found in Roanoke River

The Western Virginia Water Authority says water is safe to drink

The Roanoke Valley drinking water is safe, even after the discovery of a potentially hazardous chemical in the river.

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – The Western Virginia Water Authority along with Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality believe they have found the source of a ‘hazardous compound’ found in the Roanoke River.

GenX, the trade name for the compound, is under an umbrella of what are being called ‘forever chemicals’.

Over the summer, Western Virginia Water Authority found the compound in the Roanoke River. They immediately quit pumping water from the river into their Spring Hallow Reservoir.

The reservoir eventually sends water to a treatment plant that serves drinking water for over 13,000 residents and businesses in the Roanoke County area.

Sarah Baumgardner, Director of Public Relations for Western Virginia Water Authority, said the organization was able to figure out a way to extract the chemical from the water.

“You’re drinking water is safe to drink and the Virginia Department of Health also says that it’s safe to drink. And the reason why it’s safe is we’ve been doing treatment to remove this compound,” Baumgardner said.

Recently, the WVWA and VDEQ found high levels of this chemical in ProChem Inc.’s wastewater.

“We found 1.3 million parts per trillion which led us to conclusively determine that was a point of origin. So we have told that business to stop the discharging,” Baumgardner said.

ProChem services equipment from the Chemours’ Washington Works facility in West Virginia. The Chemours’ website does say they use HFPO-DA , GenX, in some of their products.

ProChem has since released Chemours as a client.

Jeff Steers with VDEQ said ProChem has been very cooperative throughout the entire process.

“They were cooperative when we talked about doing some sampling of their discharges and stopping the discharge altogether. They just found out about this earlier this week,” Steers said.

While the drinking water is safe for residents, Steers said it’s still important to avoid areas near ProChem in the river because of the amount of exposure to this chemical.

“We don’t want to cause over-concern or alarming concern, however, it’s an issue that we need to understand better. These pollutants were put into the river at pretty high concentrations,” Steers said.

Steers said the next steps include looking to remove the compound from ProChem’s tanks and other sources. They eventually want to remove the compound from the Roanoke River altogether.

About the Author:

Connor Dietrich joined the 10 News team in June 2022. Originally from Castle Rock, Colorado, he's ready to step away from the Rockies and step into the Blue Ridge scenery.