Commentary

Editorial: Lawmakers should approve emergency funding to address GenX water pollution crisis

There’s a fine new website that’s publishing a steady stream of solid progressive commentaries on North Carolina policy and politics. Carolina Commentary is spearheaded by a team of four veteran North Carolina journalists and aims to “provide commentary that minimizes polarization and promotes a collaborative approach to solving public policy problems.”

So far, they’re off to a good start with a raft of solid essays on an array of current issues.  The most recent editorial was published yesterday on the subject of the Gen X  water pollution crisis that NC Policy Watch environmental reporter Lisa Sorg has been covering. This is from “Time to Fund Our Environmental Watchdog”:

“Governor Roy Cooper has asked the General Assembly during its Aug. 3 special session to approve about $3 million in emergency funding to pay for investigation and regulation of threats to the state’s drinking water. Good for him.

The Wilmington StarNews reported in June that the Chemours plant in Fayetteville was discharging the unregulated contaminant GenX into the Cape Fear River, a water source for New Hanover, Pender, and Brunswick counties. Cooper directed the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to investigate. After their intervention, Chemours voluntarily stopped releasing GenX.

GenX is in the same fluorochemical family of man-made compounds as C8, which has been linked to cancer. Researchers found in 1999-2000 that 99.7 percent of Americans already had C8 in their blood, exposed through a variety of sources, including Teflon, Scotchgard, and firefighting foam. GenX replaced C8 in 2009 after lawsuits contended that drinking water contaminated with C8 caused cancer. DuPont and its spinoff company Chemours was ordered to pay a $670.7 million settlement for releasing C8 into the air and Ohio River since the 1950s….

For people exposed to the chemical since 1980, when the plant first starting releasing GenX, long-term exposure remains a concern. Dr. Detlef Knappe, one of the authors of the published research that led to the initial StarNews story, told attendees at a June 29 public forum in Wilmington that even at very low levels, GenX and similar compounds could remain in the body and accumulate for a long time especially if people continue to ingest them….

Before the General Assembly approves Cooper’s request, legislators who in June delivered about $1.8 million in budget cuts for 2018-2019 to DEQ will have to perform the political equivalent of turning around an oil tanker in the Cape Fear. But it can be done.

After StarNews reporter Vaughn Hagerty’s first story on GenX in the Cape Fear appeared June 7, a lightning-swift grassroots reaction spread throughout the community. Wilmington Democratic Mayor Bill Saffo and Woody White, Republican chairman of the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners, presented a united front against Chemours. Following Chemours’ disclosure that they were intentionally releasing GenX, White and Saffo emerged from the meeting with a palpable, shared outrage.

They jointly advocated for answers and called for Chemours to stop all discharge. This has occurred and levels of the chemical have dropped below the goal established by NC DHHS.

Legislators have loosened controls on businesses in recent years, in an attempt to stimulate economic growth. But at what cost? Legislators should swiftly approve Cooper’s request.”

Click here to read the entire editorial.

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