Commentary

Editorial blasts legislature’s “dereliction of duty” in GenX crisis

Another week, another scathing editorial directed at state lawmakers from the newspaper of record in one of the areas most impacted by the GenX water pollution crisis. This is from Sunday’s lead editorial in the Fayetteville Observer entitled “Lawmakers flee with GenX work badly underfunded”:

“Members of the General Assembly went home on Thursday after wrapping up what’s likely their final session for 2017. What they left undone should worry most of us who live in the Cape Fear River basin, especially those who live along the 100 miles between Fayetteville and Wilmington.

Somehow, the Republican majority forced itself to believe they had done enough to cope with the GenX pollution coming from the Chemours plant that sits astride the Cumberland-Bladen County line. It’s a level of self-delusion that would be comical if we weren’t dealing with an issue that affects the health, safety and lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

What the legislators did is what they usually do: They thwarted Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, overriding his veto of a bill that, among other things, sends $435,000 to UNC-Wilmington and the Wilmington area water utility to further study pollution from the industrial chemical used in producing Teflon. That works is needed, but other urgent work was ignored. The GenX has been dumped into the Cape Fear for years, apparently, and now it also looks as if it has found its way into the water table in Bladen County and may have been emitted into the air as well.

There were several good reasons why the governor vetoed that legislation, but the most important was that it dangerously underfunded the efforts that need to be taken to measure, understand and contain what may be a serious health threat. And it was a deliberate, dangerous decision not to fund any additional work on the problem by the two key state agencies that are responsible for it: The Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Health and Human Services.”

After pointing out the the growing body of data that the problem is actually much larger than we originally knew, the editorial concludes this way:

“With traces of GenX now showing up in another public water supply, it’s clearly time for a more robust look at the water supplies of many communities in the river basin. Residents around the plant are deeply concerned, as we saw Thursday when 150 crowded into a meeting at Gray’s Creek Elementary School.

In Bladen County, significantly more investment in testing is essential. And in the river, testing needs to expand beyond GenX to include any potentially hazardous chemicals that are used at the Chemours plant. The handling of GenX may or may not be indicative of the way many chemicals are handled there, but we won’t know until the water is tested extensively.

If this is all the General Assembly is going to do for the next three months, then legislative leaders are making a good case for dereliction of duty.”

 

One Comment


  1. richard manyes

    October 9, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    I think we would all like to think a fully funded deq and dhhs would have seen this coming or dealt with it better. That is simply not the case. In fact, DuPont did tell deq about this threat more than 15 years ago. Deq did little about it. Were they fully funded? I don’t know if a government agency ever believes it is fully funded. Of course, when this story broke a few months ago, the Cooper admin reacted very oddly – with very little investigation, they declared the company blameless and the DHHS used questionable reasoning to ignore the cancer threat of Genx. Then months later, after Starnews, the general assembly, CFPUA, and Professor Cahoon all showed the error of DEQ’s ways, the agency’s professional staff found its voice – (we have yet to hear from the professional staff at dhhs) – even though a sweetheart deal was ultimately signed without input from even CFPUA – all in all – about what you might expect from government in a time of crisis.

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