UNCP student’s research featured in WRAL documentary

UNCP student Ashley Cashwell Barez will be featured on a WRAL documentary, ‘Forever Chemicals: North Carolina's Toxic Tap Water,' on August 23 and August 25. 

A WRAL documentary series that examines the contamination of private water wells in communities near the Cumberland-Bladen county line features Ashley Cashwell Barez, a geo-environmental student at UNC Pembroke.

The documentary, ‘Forever Chemicals: North Carolina's Toxic Tap Water,’ aired on August 23 at 7:30 p.m. Barez discusses her years-long research on the impact of major storms on groundwater quality and quantity in southeastern North Carolina, specifically along the Cape Fear River basin. Barez’s research was highlighted in a separate WRAL spotlight which aired on August 25.

“Since the fall of 2022, I’ve been monitoring long-term groundwater levels in the Black Creek aquifer,” Barez said.

The documentary details the nearly 7,000 residential wells in Cumberland, Robeson and Sampson counties that have been found to contain GenX and other man-made chemical compounds called PFAS, or per and poly-fluoroalkyl substances. It was revealed publicly in 2017 that the Fayetteville chemical plant Chemours had been dumping PFAS into the Cape Fear River for decades.

The documentary can be viewed here.

Barez has been conducting the research alongside geology professor Dr. Madan Maharjan. They have been monitoring two wells dug––150 meters and 50 meters––from the Cape Fear River while studying the aquifer's groundwater and the river's surface water.

“We are collecting (water) samples and comparing the GenX samples that we find and examining the extent of groundwater and surface water interactions at different stream stages,” Barez said.

Barez was thrilled to see her research at UNCP being recognized and hopes her studies will lead to policy changes regarding groundwater usage.

“It was great to represent my hometown and UNCP this way,” she said. “It is very rewarding.”