Press Releases

‘Cape Fear Courage’ Tells the Story of North Carolina Communities Fighting for Clean Water 


WILMINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA – A coalition of nonprofit, community, and environmental justice groups released a new video called ‘Cape Fear Courage’ today, which tells the story of North Carolina communities fighting for information on the “forever chemicals” polluting their drinking water. The groups teamed up with Emmy-award winning filmmakers from Peak Plastic Foundation to highlight their search for answers.

“I was trying so hard to do the right things for my kids. You would go to the doctor’s visits and the pediatrician would say, ‘Raise your children on a love of water.’ And it turned out that that was the worst thing I probably could have done for my kids,” said Emily Donovan, Co-Founder of Clean Cape Fear.

Often called “forever chemicals,” PFAS have raised significant concern in the U.S. and globally because of their persistence and potential to bioaccumulate, along with their widespread presence in living organisms, products, and the environment, and demonstrated adverse health effects at low doses.

“PFAS is an acronym for a very large class of chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. At latest count, there are thousands of individual PFAS. PFAS are known as multisystem toxicants. Almost every system that’s been evaluated, some scientist somewhere has identified an effect,” said Dr. Jamie DeWitt, Professor, Pharmacology & Toxicology at East Carolina University.

“PFAS chemicals are created by manufacturers like DuPont and its spin-off, Chemours. We found out about it with the rest of the public that Chemours had been contaminating our river, our drinking water, and our air for nearly 40 years. We’re all just drinking PFAS in our water, while these companies continue to make billions and billions of dollars. And it’s appalling,” said Dana Sargent, Executive Director of Cape Fear River Watch.

“Center for Environmental Health and our community partners have filed a petition with the EPA to require Chemours to fund a comprehensive research program,” said Andrea Braswell, Project Manager at CEH. “It’s time for Chemours to pay up.”

The coalition filed a lawsuit after the U.S. EPA denied their petition under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and await a hearing in February. 

“I believe with all of my heart that I could have put off being a dialysis patient if I hadn’t been drinking the contaminated water,” said Carrol Olinger, a school teacher in Fayetteville, North Carolina. “I feel like I had some time left.”

“At this point, there are no PFAS that are regulated by the federal government. We want an epidemiological study of this region to determine whether or not the health impacts in this region are related to PFAS,” said Dana Sargent.

“It is unconscionable that 1.5 million people in North Carolina have been exposed to PFAS from the Cape Fear River basin. We know that Black and Brown communities are already bearing the burden of cumulative impacts in their communities, whether in Detroit, Michigan, or Eastern North Carolina,” said Regina Jackson, Interim CEO, CEH. “Water is life, and everyone should have access to clean water. The U.S. EPA must take action to address this PFAS pollution today.”

“We are afraid, but then we also have to be fearless. We don’t have a choice. I’m hoping that the situation gets fixed for real, for our community, for ourselves, for our future,” said Carrol Olinger.

Take Action: Sign the letter of support to President Biden and the U.S. EPA here. 

About Cape Fear River Watch

Cape Fear River Watch is working to protect and improve the water quality of the Cape Fear River Basin for all people through education, advocacy and action, with a proven track record of success.

About Center for Environmental Health

The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) is a 26-year-old organization leading the nationwide effort to protect people from toxic chemicals by working with communities, consumers, workers, government, and the private sector to demand and support business practices that are safer for public health and the environment. 

About Clean Cape Fear

Clean Cape Fear is an alliance of established advocacy groups, community leaders, educators, and professionals working together to restore and protect our water quality, as well as spotlight deficiencies in governmental regulations that adversely impact our right to clean water. 

About Toxic Free North Carolina

Toxic Free North Carolina is engaging the community in initiatives that advance environmental health and justice by advocating for safe alternatives to harmful pesticides and chemicals. Their vision is a toxic-free North Carolina that is part of a just and equitable global community where human and environmental health are valued, respected, and enjoyed by all.