I'm starting with a few shots of the deceptive beauty that is Greenfield Lake. As a Wilmington Watershed, it hides a dirty little secret.
These black waters are an aquatic cesspool, full of a toxic stew of elevated levels of Coliform Bacteria, industrial by-products like the ubiquitous PFAS/PFOAS (the most notorious being GENX) and even mercury washed out of our Carolina blue Skies from rains. Let’s not forget the Pesticides and Herbicides applied to those well-groomed lawns and golf courses that dot our region. Friday I accompanied lead NCSU researcher Dr. Scott Belcher and his team from SAFEwater-NC on an expedition to test alligators for the presence of these immune-altering chemicals in our targeted sentinel species. Alligators are at the top of the food chain in this environment ingesting the fish, birds and turtles that eat the smaller fish and frogs that consume, on down that food chain to the minnows and insect larvae and to even algae and Protozoans (one-celled organisms). I will use the more familiar term GENX to include the entire gamut of the thousands of these waste products that have been discharged into the mighty Cape Fear River (the source of our drinking water) from the DuPont/Chemours Plant upriver in Fayetteville, NC. Don't think that these chemicals are only affecting alligators. They are present in the bloodstreams of people living in our region. They are in crops irrigated by GENX laden waters from wells and our municipal water systems. They are in the fish caught from our river. These poisons are in everything we consume from this region. It is terrifying because our government is now allowing the Chemours Co. in the Netherlands to export their toxic wastes to plants in the US, including the one in Fayetteville, NC to "recycle" these wastes. That means not only is Chemours continuing to dump its own wastes into our precious water from its local operations, now it is importing wastes from overseas manufacturers. Yup. The root of this is money. Chemours is receiving millions of dollars to process (dump) these forever chemicals into OUR water source. Our government, fueled by corporate greed has turned a blind eye on this billion dollar industry which has been polluting our environment for 4 decades now. The time is past to call everyone who shares life in this region to stop this practice of profit over people. We need to band together. To stop fighting amongst ourselves and to realize we are all of the same species and we are the only ones who have the power to change this onslaught of pollution from Chemours/DuPont which is already proven to have changed the very DNA of the (my) alligators. Immune systems are designed to protect us from viruses and bacteria and even cancer. When immune systems are targeted on our own bodies it is called Autoimmunity and it is unfortunately a powerful foe. We are doomed by diseases like Lupus, Diabetes, Ulcerative Colitis, Thyroid disorders and even Cancers. I could go on and on. Do you know anyone who has any of these ailments I just listed? Well, our water is a big trigger for them all. Just like in "my" alligators these changes are occurring in humans who choose to live in the Cape Fear River region. We need to STOP it now before we become extinct as a species.
When alligators, which have survived for over two hundred million years, are succumbing to the ravages of Autoimmunity, we, as a much more delicate species to say the least, are surely doomed to extinction!
...How ironic that our own bodies are killing ourselves. Rant over. For now...
Thank you Gators from the Cape Fear River Basin for allowing NCSU’s own Dr. Scott Belcher and his team of dedicated researchers to draw a correlation between GENX contaminated waters upstream from Chemours and Autoimmunity. This is the first time Autoimmunity has been demonstrated in a Reptile - my favorite Reptile at that. Although an amazing discovery, it is NOT good. Our Wilmington alligators are sick. They have exponentially increased Interferon levels in their systems as compared to the gators from Lake Waccamaw (which are untouched by the Runoff from Chemours). Interferon is one of the generals in the Immunity Brigade. Unfortunately, this leader is crazily directing its forces against itself - catching itself in the crossfire so to speak. Basically, the Wilmington gators' immune systems are attacking themselves and showing signs of Lupus type illnesses, slowed wound healing and skin infections - Autoimmunity. I have seen firsthand Polypoid lesions on alligator skin, slick slimy grey appearing coverings on flesh and infected appearing longstanding wounds and gators generally in poor condition there. We all need to take heed of these findings before it's too late for us all. Alligators historically have had an ironclad immune system which allowed them to live untouched in stagnant, muddy tepid bacteria laden environments. This is no longer so for our study group of gators in Greenfield. Where will this end? We have to Stop Chemours before it kills us all. It's up to each and every one of us!!