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PNS Daily Newscast - December 14, 2018 


The Senate votes to withdraw funding for the Saudi war in Yemen. Also on the Friday rundown: the Global Climate Conference reinforces the need for grassroots movements; and could this be the most wasteful time of year?

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Critics: NC Water Safety Act Endangers Water Quality

While it is unregulated by the EPA, there are concerns about human exposure to the chemical GenX and the fact it does not break down in the environment. (Vinoth Chandar/Flickr)
While it is unregulated by the EPA, there are concerns about human exposure to the chemical GenX and the fact it does not break down in the environment. (Vinoth Chandar/Flickr)
May 29, 2018

WILMINGTON, N.C. – This week, North Carolina lawmakers consider identical bills in House and Senate that would change the way the Department of Environmental Quality takes action on pollutants.

Instead of its current model of enforcement, the governor would have to issue an administrative order to spur the agency into action.

Supporters say it's a more efficient process to stop polluters, but the DEQ and Gov. Roy Cooper have expressed concerns.

They say it creates an easier appeals process for companies, and could even deprive polluters of their constitutional rights to due process.

Derb Carter, director of the Chapel Hill office of the Southern Environmental Law Center, is among the opponents who maintain the bill is intended to make pollution enforcement more lax for a particular company.

"This is a critical situation,” he states. “It's a crisis in terms of drinking water on the Cape Fear River. The bill, if enacted, will actually hinder efforts to control pollution that's coming from the Chemours facility."

The chemical involved in the Cape Fear plant controversy is known as GenX, used in the production of nonstick cookware and other Teflon products.

One year ago this week, the potential contamination and dangers of GenX were recognized by the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority when it asked the state for help.

Cassie Gavin, director of government affairs for the North Carolina Sierra Club, says the legislation follows a national trend.

"Every year, we seem to see rollbacks of our water quality protections at the state level, and it's even more important to keep those now that we're seeing so many rollbacks at the federal level," she states.

There is talk that the Water Safety Act may be folded into a larger budget bill, which Carter says would make it difficult to defeat.

In addition to changing the DEQ enforcement process, it would also cut the agency's budget, which Carter adds is already under-funded.

"The legislation completely fails to fund the Department of Environmental Quality at a level that's necessary to do its job,” he stresses. “It has inadequate staff and resources, and even basic equipment to ensure that water quality is protected."

The Water Safety Act also changes the requirement that companies such as Chemours provide alternative water supplies for residents affected by pollution. Instead, it only requires providing safe water on a case-by-case basis, after well contamination is definitively linked to the company.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC