Carolina Journal’s Dan Way reports on the EPA’s research into the effects of GenX, a compound classified as a PFAS chemical, that is found in the Teflon film that covers solar panels.
“There’s literally so many thousands of these compounds, and we don’t have methods to measure most of them. So we are getting up on the research, and trying to figure out ways of identifying what’s out there,” Andy Gillespie, associate director for ecology at EPA’s National Exposure Research Laboratory in Research Triangle Park, told CJ.
Kristina Beasley said that lack of knowledge underscores her concerns. She is among opponents of an expansion plan for the industrial-scale Wilkinson Solar Plant in the Terra Ceia community of Beaufort County. Their opposition is believed to be the first in the state to raise the issue of potential GenX contamination in an N.C. Utility Commission regulatory hearing.
“I definitely think that it is an issue, and further research, I think, should be done,” Beasley said. She said the public doesn’t appreciate concerns about toxic chemicals, fluids, and substances leaking into the soil and groundwater as solar installations age and deteriorate, or suffer damage from windstorms or other disasters.
As CJ pointed out more than three years ago, North Carolina doesn’t have rules for decommissioning solar facilities or a disposal plan for spent panels. Critics worry about potential pollution. Residents consistently have raised fears in town halls and solar plant permit hearings about contamination from compromised solar panels.
But community activists are not the only ones weighing in. Donald van der Vaart, former secretary of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, who holds a doctorate in chemical engineering, sees reason for concern given North Carolina’s more than 7,500 solar installations.
“North Carolina’s solar power capacity is now the second highest in the nation. EPA researchers recognize that solar panels may be a source of GenX compounds,” said van der Vaart, a senior fellow at the John Locke Foundation. “I would expect Duke Energy and the Public Utilities Commission would want to see test results to protect them from future liability.”
The EPA is planning a toxicity assessment next month.
The EPA plans to issue a toxicity assessment outlining a first-of-its-kind health-risk profile for GenX and PFAS compounds next month. It’s scheduled to release a national management plan by the end of 2018.
The EPA is collaborating with states, academic researchers, industry scientists, and other federal agencies to develop methods and tools for states and local communities to find GenX and other PFAS compounds in the environment.
Read the rest of Dan’s article here.