Environment

Bills would crack down on polluters, set “precautionary” standard for PFAS and other emerging compounds

Sen. Harper Peterson (D-New Hanover) Photos: NCGA

Sen. Kirk deViere (D-Cumberland)

State environmental regulators would be required to set a standard of 10 parts per trillion for perfluorinated compounds, according to Senate Bill 518, introduced on Friday.

The “precautionary” 10 ppt trillion standard would be applied to any emerging compound for which there are no federal or state regulations. This would include GenX, 1,4-dioxane and the extended family of PFAS compounds.

Primary sponsors are Democratic Sens. Harper Peterson (New Hanover), Kirk deViere (Cumberland) and Floyd McKissick (Durham).

The bill would require DEQ to establish a PFAS task force to comprehensively assess emerging compounds in the Lower Cape Fear River Basin. The task force would conduct “non-targeted” testing for these compounds, of which there are thousands, in not only drinking water, lakes and groundwater, but also soil, air, dust, food and garden and farm products.

The Lower Cape Fear River Basin includes eight counties: Cumberland, Bladen, Brunswick, New Hanover, Sampson, Duplin and Pender.

The measure also directs DEQ to collaborate with the state department of health to study the concentrations of these chemicals in people living in the Lower Cape Fear River Basin.

The bill also would require DEQ to identify the responsible polluters. Those polluters, such as Chemours, that contaminate the public or private drinking water supply with PFAS would be required to pay for permanent replacement water, either through a home or building filtration system or connection to a public water supply. The polluter would also have to cover the costs of periodic maintenance of a filtration system.

The requirement would kick in if the water supply contained 10 parts per trillion or more of a single PFAS compound, including GenX, and a cumulative total of 25 ppt for three or more of these compounds. These thresholds are stricter than the state’s current health advisory goal of 140 ppt for GenX. Dozens of private drinking water wells near the Chemours plant in Bladen County have been contaminated with GenX and PFAS, some of them with levels of 1,000 ppt and higher.

The proposal is similar to the state’s requirement that Duke Energy provide alternate water to households within a half-mile of the utility property where coal ash was stored in leaking, unlined pits.

The bill would also repeal the Hardison Amendment, which prohibits state agencies like DEQ from passing stronger regulations than those set by the federal government. (Under the Trump administration, that’s a very low bar.)

Lawmakers passed the amendment in the 1970s, but it was later repealed, only to rise from the dead and be reenacted in 2011, under a Republican majority.

A similar measure, House Bill 566, would require polluters to pay for all cleanup costs and alternate water supplies. This measure also targets Duke Energy, prohibiting the utility from passing along costs of managing and remediating coal ash to the ratepayers.

The measure would also empower DEQ to force a company to immediately stop discharging or emitting contaminants if the Secretary concludes they present an imminent threat.

Primary sponsors are Democratic Reps. Pricey Harrison (Guilford), Brian Turner (Buncombe), Ray Russell (Ashe, Watauga) and Rachel Hunt (Mecklenburg).

 

3 Comments


  1. Glen Thearling

    April 9, 2019 at 4:26 pm

    Note that the Hardison Amendment does not apply to most PFAS chemicals as the EPA has set no limits, yet DEQ still did not act

  2. Glen Thearling

    April 9, 2019 at 5:15 pm

    The following is already an option that the Gov has not used and DEQ has not recommended as a threat: “The measure would also empower DEQ to force a company to immediately stop discharging or emitting contaminants if the Secretary concludes they present an imminent threat.”

  3. rex burfordd

    April 16, 2019 at 1:55 pm

    As to the Hardison Amendment, first just because EPA has not set limits, it does not mean that it will not do so, in which case arguably the state would for sure be bound by the existing no more stringent rule. On the other hand as long as the FED EPA has not set a standard it doesn’t meant some court will not interpret the lack of any federal rule will preclude the state from enacting its own rule because of a reckless interpretation of the existing Hardison Amendment. This would of course lead to inordinate challengers and delay, delay, delay! If the Hardison Amendment is gone then you do not have to worry about these syllogistic arguments. That is just the sort of thing that Chemours is looking for, not to mention the rest of the regulated community.

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