Environment

DEQ names head of science advisory board, will tackle emerging contaminants in drinking water

Jamie Bartram, founding director of The Water Institute at UNC Chapel Hill. He is the new chairman of the Secretaries’ Science Advisory Board. (Photo: UNC Chapel Hill)

A distinguished UNC professor who has written about the Flint water crisis and other drinking water contamination issues, is the chairman of the newly formed state Secretaries’ Science Advisory Board, the Department of Environmental Quality announced today.

Jamie Bartram, a professor and founding director of The Water Institute at UNC Chapel Hill, will lead the board. Its first charge is to study ways to better protect public health and the environment from new or emerging chemicals of concern, including GenX and hexavalent chromium.

The Water Institute is a division of UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health. Institute researchers study and report on pressing water quality issues, not just in the U.S., but worldwide.

It has conducted important research in North Carolina, including a 2014 analysis that showed racial disparities in access to municipal water and sewer services. For example, in Wake County, Black communities are significantly less likely than white communities to be connected to a municipal water supply system.

The science panel is appointed by DEQ Secretary Michael Regan and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen. It will meet at least six times each year.

The panel has several duties:

  • perform or recommend reviews and evaluations of contaminants released to the environment;
  • consult on potential DEQ regulations about those contaminants;
  • assist both agencies in identifying contaminants of emerging concern
  • help determine whether the contaminants should be studied further;
  • assist the secretaries in providing expertise to evaluate the human and environmental impacts of exposure to hazardous contaminants;
  • and provide input to DHHS as the agency establishes health goals for emerging contaminants.

Earlier this year, Gov. Roy Cooper expanded the scope of the panel, formerly known as Secretary’s Science Advisory Board on Toxic Air Pollutants.

DEQ and the DHHS have yet to announce membership of the board, which will meet Oct. 23. The meetings will be public, although the place and time have also not been announced.

One Comment


  1. richard manyes

    October 13, 2017 at 6:40 am

    This advisory board is an excuse to do satisfy Duke. It is not as though the answers being sought from the SAB are not being sought by scientists elsewhere already. Let us consider two items that this group is supposed to tackle.

    (1) They were originally called out of retirement (the SAB has been in existence for years but haven’t met in a very long time – at least 4 years) to recommend what level of Chromium 6 DEQ should hold Duke to supply drinking water to folks living near coal ash ponds. You may recall that DHHS toxicologists (three to be precise) testified under oath that 0.07ppb was the right number – rather than 10 ppb which the management of DHHS under McCrory finally settled on.

    Two of those toxicologists left but in April of this year DHHS professionals wrote a memo again recommending 0.07 ppb. Well, Cooper, or Eudy, told Cohen that wouldn’t do – so deq and dhhs settled on 10 ppb as the requirement for Duke. When the residents complained, the SAB was resurrected. The question of Chromium 6 has been studied and re-studied. Any group of toxicologists assigned to this question will travel the same path. The goal here is to control the SAB so that Cooper and Duke can have their 10 ppb but not be blamed for it – that is why no one wants to serve on this SAB.

    (2) Genx is an even bigger debacle. The toxicologists have already worked on this but for some reason Cohen is not interested in their results. Again, it appears that SAB will need to do Cooper’s bidding and declare Genx a non-carcinogen and move on. It is a very difficult position to put scientists in.

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