Commentary

Editorial: “Public outrage” required to get legislative leaders to act on GenX pollution

The lead editorial in today’s edition of the Wilmington Star News does a fine job once again of calling out the shameful inaction of state legislative leaders in addressing the GenX water pollution crisis.

After laying out more details of what appears to be a growing public health emergency, the editorial concludes this way:

“But don’t fret — the General Assembly is all over it. When Gov. Roy Cooper asked for an extra $2.6 million — out of a $23 billion budget — to shore up the state’s understaffed water-quality agency, the Honorables more or less told him to get stuffed.

Instead, they gave $185,000 to the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, $250,000 to UNCW, and then washed their hands of the problem — maybe with bottled water.

We hope the money will help in some way with GenX, but it’s far too little and does nothing for the folks in Cumberland and Bladen counties, where much more than GenX is turning up in the water. The Cape Fear River, meanwhile, is one big chemical-laden mess.

‘GenX is only a small fraction of the total level of fluorochemicals that we have found in the river, and the other levels are some times 50 to 100 times higher,’ said N.C. State’s Detlef Knappe, an expert on chemical contaminants.

In the Greensboro area, a compound called 1,4 dioxane — used in commercial solvents — is being discharged into the Cape Fear River watershed. Knappe found levels 100 times higher than what the EPA considers safe.

‘I think we … have to ask harder questions when we issue permits for industrial discharges,’ Knappe told WRAL-TV in July. ‘If we know we’re making byproducts and we don’t know what they are, then it’s pretty irresponsible to just discharge them into a river …’

But that’s the situation we find ourselves in. And the General Assembly’s leadership has shown no sense of urgency in responding.

The people of North Carolina deserve better. But we know Berger/Moore & Co. are not going to listen to Gov. Cooper or leaders in his administration.

It looks like residents will have to demand action. We’d suggest they do so — and with a strong dose of outrage.”

One Comment


  1. richard manyes

    October 27, 2017 at 6:59 am

    I am not sure why the Starnews is so sanguine about the job Cooper’s administration has done in this debacle. The crisis has revealed the incompetence at the senior management level of both DEQ and DHHS from the beginning. Eventually, Cooper’s desire to protect a company with deep political ties gave way to the catastrophic political damage that he would have met had not let the professional staff take over.

    But funding and staffing has nothing to do with this problem. The field of environmental regulation is predicated on self-reporting. To think more staff would have prevented this simply illustrates a deep level of naivete. Critical to making this system work, however, is the real threat of punishment when events are not reported completely.

    Of course, that is the rub here, since DEQ signed a sweetheart consent decree that appears to let Chemours off the hook entirely. Luckily for Wilmington residents, (no, I was not going to say Starnews is the local investigative paper) CFPUA is attempting to hold Chemours (and, really, the Cooper administration) accountable.

    Let’s hope the federal judge who will be hearing this case is fair and impartial.

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