Environment, Legislature

After two months, DEQ still hasn’t produced public records on $1.3 million SePro deal for chemicals in Jordan Lake

After more than two months, the NC Department of Environmental Quality still has not provided contracts and proposals regarding an Indiana-based company’s $1.3 million plan to chemically treat Jordan Lake — a plan that is now law.

On May 19, NCPW filed a public records request with DEQ seeking any contracts and proposals, both draft and final, with SePro. Despite NCPW’s repeated requests for the information, over the past two months, DEQ spokespersons have said that the department’s attorneys were still reviewing the documents for any potential proprietary information that would have to be redacted.

Under North Carolina law, governments must provide public records within “a reasonable amount of time.” Any redactions must be explained. Nonetheless, the law is often flouted. The McCrory administration delayed filling some requests for six months to more than two years. Records were often redacted with no explanation.

After 2 months @NCDEQ still hasn’t produced public records on SePro deal Click To Tweet

As NCPW reported on May 25, SePro, through its powerful lobbyist and former House speaker Harold Brubaker, carved out $1.3 million in the state budget for a trial program to treat Jordan Lake with EPA-approved algaecides and herbicides. The budget passed both the House and Senate with that earmark. DEQ is expected to hire the company to study the effectiveness of using copper sulfate and phosphorus-lock chemicals in the reservoir, a drinking water source for more than 300,000 people.

However, independent scientists, as well as those within DEQ and the EPA, internal emails show, disapprove of these methods because of toxic risks to ecosystems and questions regarding the chemicals’ cost effectiveness in controlling algae.

According to the budget language, testing and sampling to allow DEQ to issue a permit for the SePro trial must begin by Sept. 1.

The US Army Corps of Engineers, which built Jordan Lake in the early 1980s, must approve of the trial. Considering the Corps’ dismay over the failed SolarBees project “another legislative fiat” their buy-in is questionable. Hank Heusinkveld, spokesman for the USACE’s office in Wilmington, said the Corps does not have a proposal from SePro. The project’s status is “in limbo,” Heusinkveld said.

The trial program would end in 2020, with annual reports due to the legislature each September. Any unused money would revert to the General Fund.

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