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Proposed GenX legislation unveiled for January special session contains more work for agencies, no additional funds

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Rep. Pricey Harrison, who sits on the House River Quality Committee: “The bill is a non-starter without the necessary resources to do the work.” (Photo: NCGA)

The workload on two state agencies to tackle the issue of emerging contaminants would increase under proposed legislation, but without more money to do that work.

The Department of Environmental Quality would be required to analyze and review its notification and reporting requirements for emerging contaminants, such as GenX, according to a bill released to state lawmakers today. The bill would be introduced at the Jan. 10 special session.

The proposed legislation would also direct DEQ to study the effectiveness of its approval process for NPDES wastewater discharge permits. The agency would also share water quality data with neighboring states.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services would work with the Secretaries’ Science Advisory Board [2] to review and establish provisional health goals for these emerging contaminants in drinking water.

However, the bill doesn’t contain any additional funding for DEQ or DHHS. Earlier this year, Gov. Roy Cooper requested from lawmakers $2 million for DEQ and $600,000 for DHHS to deal with contaminants in drinking water throughout the state. Lawmakers declined to appropriate the money.

Rep. Ted Davis Jr., chairman of the House Select Committee on River Quality, [3] said earlier this month that lawmakers would introduce legislation suggested short-term solutions to the problem of emerging contaminants in the drinking water. He mentioned there could be money attached to the bill, and that the public would be invited to comment on it at the committee’s Jan. 4 meeting.

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Rep. Ted Davis Jr., chairman of the House Select Committee on River Quality (Photo: NCGA)

Davis could not be immediately reached for comment.

Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Guilford County Democrat, sits on the river quality committee. She told Policy Watch that the legislation could still include money for the agencies’ additional duties; the figure, Harrison said, is still being negotiated. “Otherwise the proposal is a non-starter without the necessary resources to undertake the work.”

The legislation, she added, “is more modest than what we need to address the emerging contaminant issue, especially in light of yesterday’s news about perfluorinated compounds in Jordan Lake.”

Policy Watch reported yesterday [5] that these chemical cousins to GenX had been detected in Jordan Lake and in the Town of Cary’s drinking water. While the individual levels of the various compounds did not exceed the EPA’s health advisory threshold of 70 parts per trillion in Cary’s drinking water, the total amount did — higher than 200 ppt.

DHHS has set a provisional health goal of 140 ppt for GenX; there are no regulations, either at the state or federal level, for these perfluorinated compounds in drinking water.

DEQ Communications Director Jamie Kritzer said the agency has been working on the bill language with the legislature, and is “reviewing the final draft of this legislation. We are continuing conversations regarding short-term funding in the upcoming January session as well as long-term funding solutions in the session starting in May.”

Harrison said House Speaker Tim Moore’s office has worked with the Senate, environmental groups and DEQ on “consensus legislation.”

“They deserve a lot of credit for that,” Harrison said, adding that the proposed measure reflects the “political reality of getting something through the Jan. 10 session.   “I am hopeful that we will undertake more substantive measures in the upcoming short session and in 2019. At a minimum, we need to undo many of the water quality protection rollbacks that have occurred since 2011.”

Emerging contaminants legislation [6] by Lisa Sorg [7] on Scribd