top of page


For nearly 40 years there has been silence in Pittsboro surrounding our water contamination. Researchers have identified and documented contamination in the town’s drinking water for decades, but there’s been little done about it and almost no outcry.


Among the first documented studies came in 1985, when an investigation by the Haw River Assembly concluded that ‘the drinking water in Pittsboro was contaminated by industrial pollutants from cities upriver, including Greensboro, Reidsville and Burlington.

Twenty-two years after that study, in 2007, a research team led by Mark Stryner of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found high levels of PFAS contamination throughout much of the Cape Fear River basin, from Greensboro to just downriver of the Chemours chemical plant in Bladen County.  According to that report, the highest level of PFAS — 942 parts per trillion — was found in the Haw River near where Pittsboro draws its drinking water.

In 2013, another group of researchers, this time led by Detlef Knappe of N.C. State University, returned to the Haw River to conduct more tests.

Knappe’s group had set out to look for bromide, a compound that reacts with drinking water disinfectants to produce toxic byproducts, including trihalomethanes, which can contribute to cancer. They found not only an abundance of bromide, but also high levels of PFAS and 1,4 dioxane, an industrial solvent that the EPA also lists as a probable carcinogen.

In Pittsboro, the research team found the two legacy PFAS compounds — known as PFOA and PFOS — at concentrations exceeding 70 parts per trillion, the level the EPA now considers safe for a lifetime of consumption. Levels exceeding the threshold were found on 57 of 127 sampling days, according to N.C. State University.

Despite all of the studies, the public outcry that began after Knappe’s team of scientists found GenX in Wilmington’s drinking water has not materialized in Pittsboro…


Genx Exposure Study

The GenX Exposure Study is made up of researchers, staff, students, Community Science Advisory Boards, local organizations, and study participants who are all working together to understand PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) exposure in communities along the Cape Fear River Basin, North Carolina.


PFAS Exposure in Pittsboro

Our PFAS research study is based in the North Carolina Piedmont region and includes five objectives as described below. A team of Duke faculty, staff, and students from the Nicholas School of the Environment, the Pratt School of Engineering, the Nicholas Institute for Policy Solutions, and the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology are collaborating on this work. We seek to understand the sources of PFAS to the Haw River, evaluate exposure in affected communities, investigate potential health impacts, and work with local stakeholders to provide important information to benefit the development of local policies and initiatives to mitigate health risks.


Service Name

Describe your service here. What makes it great? Use short catchy text to tell people what you offer, and the benefits they will receive. A great description gets readers in the mood, and makes them more likely to go ahead and book.


Explore the Map

Mapping the PFAS contamination crisis: New data show 2,858 sites in 50 states and two territories.

bottom of page