Environment, News

Fish and Wildlife Service moves to protect two threatened NC species

Carolina madtom (Image: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

WASHINGTON — Two North Carolina aquatic animal species should be protected under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined.

The Carolina madtom, a small freshwater catfish, should be listed as endangered and an aquatic salamander species, the Neuse River waterdog, should be listed as threatened, according to the FWS. The proposal comes as the Trump administration has sought to cut funds available for Endangered Species Act listings.

The two species are endemic to North Carolina — they don’t live anywhere else in the world, said Raleigh-based FWS Field Supervisor Pete Benjamin.

Dams, polluted waters and invasive flathead catfish are among the factors reducing the Carolina madtom’s presence in its native Neuse River Basin. Researchers are breeding the fish in captivity in hopes of restoring the population, according to the FWS.

The proposed designations are based on findings by the Fish and Wildlife Service and North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission biologists. They reviewed extensive scientific information, Benjamin said, including habitat location and status, human-created threats and ongoing species conservation projects.

The FWS proposal, published last week in the Federal Register, would designate hundreds of miles of river as critical habitat for the two species. While that designation doesn’t establish a refuge or preserve for the species, it does prevent federal agencies from doing anything to place the species in jeopardy, including modifying or destroying the habitat.

Neuse River waterdog (Image: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

The public can comment on the proposed designations until July 22. After that, a final rule will be issued or the proposal will be withdrawn.

The Trump administration’s fiscal 2020 budget proposal includes $95 million for recovery of listed species, an increase of nearly $4 million from the fiscal 2019 enacted budget. But it would whittle funding to add wildlife and plants to the Endangered Species List to $11 million annually, a $7.7 million cut from the previous year, according to the administration’s 2020 budget request.

Congressional appropriators often disregard White House budget requests, and House lawmakers have said they plan to boost funding to protect endangered species. In March, North Carolina Rep. Alma Adams (D) joined other House Democrats asking appropriators to “support robust funding” for Endangered Species Act listings and recovery.

Approximately 500 species are waiting for approval to be added to the endangered and threatened lists. While the budget cuts aren’t fatal impediments, they do slow the listing process, in some cases causing a two-year process to take a decade or more.

Occasionally, a species will become extinct during the extended decision period, said Center for Biological Diversity lobbyist Brett Hartl.

The Trump administration is “sort of gaming the system, slow-walking it” purposefully, he said.

Even if the process becomes more difficult, Hartl said, getting species on the list is still worth the effort because it creates prohibitions and mandates that keep both individuals and federal agencies from taking or harming it.

It also “empowers ordinary people to protect the environment,” giving them the right to bring a lawsuit against anyone they observe harming a protected species, he said. “Those things happen even if the budget is hamstrung.”

Alexis Shanes is a reporter with the Medill News Service and the Newsroom network, of which Policy Watch is a member.

agriculture, Environment, Legislature

The Farm Act, state budget are “erecting a fortress for the hog industry”

Sen. Brent Jackson, R-Duplin, Johnston, Sampson: “I don’t like the term CAFO. It has negative connotations.”

Disclosure: The NC Justice Center filed a brief in support of plaintiffs suing Smithfield/Murphy-Brown for nuisance. NC Policy Watch is a project of the Justice Center, but had no role in the decision to file the brief nor its contents. In order to maintain its editorial independence, Policy Watch has not read the brief and has not communicated with anyone at the Justice Center about it.

Although the bulk of the 2019 Farm Act deals with the regulation of hemp — which Sen. Brent Jackson calls, without irony, a “budding” industry — there are more than 25 sections in the bill, many of them controversial.

As Policy Watch reported this morning, one section would dismantle portions of the Public Records law to shield swine farms from scrutiny. Records generated “by or for” the state and county Soil and Water Conservation Districts would be exempt from the statute. The Department of Agriculture and bill proponents contend this provision provides consistency with federal law, which keeps certain individual farm records confidential.

“It merely mirrors federal law,” said Sen. Brent Jackson, a Republican representing three major hog-producing counties.

But Ryke Longest, director of the Duke University Environmental Policy Clinic, told Policy Watch that is not true. Federal exemptions apply “only to federal records for federal programs. State cost-share records are not exempt. This law change would cover all documents related to the state cost-share program, whether submitted by private parties or the soil and water conservation district.”

At the committee meeting, Jackson said the “parties that need to see the records” could do so.

“Who are the parties? Who makes that decision?” asked Sen. Mike Woodard, a Democrat representing Durham, Granville and Person counties.

“The regulatory agencies would have access,” Jackson said. “It would be under the purview of the Department of Agriculture.”

“What’s to hide?” asked Sen. Harper Peterson, a New Hanover County Democrat.

No one answered the question.

Sen. Harper Peterson, a New Hanover County Democrat: “What is there to hide?”

Peterson questioned the exemption for swine farms that store manure for biogas from odor rules. The Environmental Management Commission and DEQ began rulemaking nearly a year ago, a common timeline for the complex process.

“The EMC was making rules more stringent than they should have been,” Jackson replied.

“Do we have a copy of their recommendations?” Peterson asked.

“They’ve been dragging their feet,” Jackson replied.

After a year of rulemaking — a common amount of time for the EMC — the public comment period on the odor rules ended May 14.

The Senate ANER committee is expected to vote on the bill next Wednesday.


CAFO — a four-letter word?

Semantics occasionally creep into legislative committee meetings. Several lawmakers, Rep. Jimmy Dixon among them, dislike the use of “farm” to describe solar and wind energy installations. (Merriam-Webster: pronounced färm, from Middle English, “a tract of land devoted to agricultural purposes; an area containing a number of similar structures or objects, such as radio antennas or storage tanks.”)

Today, the term “CAFOs” — short for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations — was disparaged.

“They’re not CAFOs. They are family farms,” Sen. Brent Jackson said. “The term ‘CAFO’ has a negative connotation.”

But CAFOs is correct. And while families might indeed own the land and owe the debt, the corporations own the animals and dictate the terms of their management.

First, the EPA defines AFOs as “agricultural enterprises where animals are kept and raised in confined situations. AFOs congregate animals, feed, manure and urine, dead animals, and production operations on a small land area. Feed is brought to the animals rather than the animals grazing or otherwise seeking feed in pastures, fields, or on rangeland.”

A CAFO is another EPA term for a large, concentrated AFO. “A CAFO is an AFO with more than 1000 animal units (an animal unit is defined as an animal equivalent of 1,000 pounds live weight and equates to 1,000 head of beef cattle, 700 dairy cows, 2500 swine weighing more than 55 pounds, 125,000 broiler chickens, or 82,000 laying hens or pullets) confined on site for more than 45 days during the year. Any AFO that discharges manure or wastewater into a natural or man-made ditch, stream or other waterway is defined as a CAFO, regardless of size.”


Buried in the budget, a regulatory rollback

One of the most controversial environmental provisions in the budget bill delays for one year the implementation of general permits for swine, cattle, and a small number of poultry facilities that use a wet litter method of manure management. The permits were to go into effect on Oct. 1.

They want corporate socialism but no public scrutiny Click To Tweet

DEQ held several public hearings on the draft permit, including a stakeholder meeting that included agriculture interests. Nonetheless, the Farm Bureau was displeased with the results and earlier this month filed suit in administrative court, alleging DEQ didn’t follow proper procedure in issuing the permit.

“After a lengthy and transparent process involving discussions with numerous stakeholders from all walks of life and a review of more than 6,500 public comments, DEQ revised three permits to provide more certainty to farmers and communities,” DEQ Secretary Michael Regan said in a press release. “The changes targeted by this budget provision are not new rules or regulations. They are part of the permit-writing process, which is well within DEQ’s authority.”

Some of the new permit requirements are more stringent than the previous version, issued in 2014, and resulted from a Title VI civil rights settlement between DEQ and neighbors of hog farms. The delay means farms would continue to operate under the old permits until the matter is settled.

These include  groundwater monitoring at farms within the 100-year flood plain; additional reporting and equipment maintenance requirements; reducing the time between a National Weather Service hurricane/tropical storm warning or flood watch and when a farm must stop spraying waste on its fields.

“Industry representatives fully participated in that process,” said the NC Environmental Justice Network in a prepared statement. The NCEJN is composed of several groups and individuals, many of whom live near industrialized hog operations. “Their effort now to extend the old permit is not about a flawed process. It is their attempt to circumvent the proper process because the industry didn’t get everything it wanted.”

The Pork Council did not answer emailed questions about the budget provision.

Will Hendrick, an attorney with the Waterkeeper Alliance, said that if the bill becomes law with this language, key groundwater quality monitoring would be delayed. “It would be a lost year of data,” Hendrick said, adding that the intention “is to increase the amount of information available to the public.”

The $450,000 appropriation for swine biogas projects also has raised concerns of environmental advocates. The money was transferred from the Agriculture Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, which helps sustain smaller farms. And while methane, including that emitted by livestock, is a potent greenhouse gas worth capturing, swine biogas programs could incentivize the construction of natural gas pipelines — which in turn, leak methane.

Michelle Nowlin, supervising attorney of the Duke University Environmental Law Clinic, told Policy Watch that the federal government has identified biogas as a conservation practice. “The conundrum is that federal energy policy is pushing technology that conflicts with state law,” said Nowlin, who recently wrote a chapter for a textbook on climate change and agricultural law.

Even with significant public subsidies, biogas operations don’t have to comply with odor rules and nuisance laws. And if the Farm Act passes with the Public Records exemptions intact, and the budget giveaways to the industrialized livestock industry stand, Nowlin said, “the overall legislative context is erecting a legal fortress to protect the hog industry. They want corporate socialism but no public scrutiny.”

Environment

DEQ finds 20 types of PFAS in compost headed for gardens, farms and playgrounds

Sludge from DAK Americas, sampled by Policy Watch earlier this year. State environmental regulators conducted their own testing after Policy Watch alerted them of high levels of the toxic compound 1,4-Dioxane in sludge entering a compost facility. (Photo: Lisa Sorg)

Twenty types of perfluorinated compounds, commonly known as PFAS, were detected in compost produced at the McGill facility in Sampson County, but the sources of the contamination have not been identified.

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality sampled the compost, as well as wastewater residuals — sludge — from DAK Americas, a plastics manufacturing plant, after a Policy Watch investigation found high levels of a different toxic compound, 1,4-Dioxane, in the sludge entering the McGill facility.

In the most recent tests, high levels of 1,4-Dioxane were detected in the DAK sludge, but none was found in the compost, according to DEQ.

However, a wide range of PFAS were detected in the compost. Of the 33 types of PFAS sampled for, 20 were detected, with concentrations as high as 54.8 parts per trillion. (Scroll to bottom of story for a chart of the results.)

North Carolina has adopted the EPA’s voluntary drinking water advisory of 70 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS combined. The state has also recommended that people shouldn’t drink water containing more than 10 ppt of any single perfluorinated compound.

There is no state or federal standard for PFAS in compost and sludge.

The EPA doesn’t regulate PFAS individually — there are an estimated 4,700 — or as a class, although several states have passed their own legally enforceable contaminant limits.

Exposure to PFAS has been linked to a variety of health disorders: a depressed immune response, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure during pregnancy — known as preeclampsia — hormonal disruption, developmental problems, and even cancer.

At a US House subcommittee on PFAS hearing earlier this month, Jamie DeWitt, a toxicologist from East Carolina University, told lawmakers the compounds should be regulated as a whole. “PFAS don’t break down and they like water. PFAS move, they’re persistent, and they’re toxic.”

McGill receives a variety of materials that are turned into compost: peanut shells, animal bedding, chicken manure, swine waste and sludge from municipal wastewater treatment plants, as well as DAK. This makes it difficult to pinpoint the source of the contamination.

Wastewater can be contaminated by industrial processes, but also by polluted rivers and lakes. In a vicious cycle, water treatment plants withdraw contaminated water from rivers and streams. PFAS can’t be removed through traditional treatment, so they are present in water flowing from the tap. In turn, that contaminated water — through faucets, dishwashers, toilets — goes to the wastewater treatment plant, which also can’t remove it without special equipment.

The US Composting Council knows PFAS is a problem for the industry. Earlier this year a council spokeswoman told Policy Watch that the industry is urging the EPA to regulate perfluorinated compounds, especially in material being shipped to compost facilities.

The state’s compost rules are up for readoption this year by the Environmental Management Commission. Draft rules don’t require that compost facilities test for PFAS and 1,4-Dioxane. However, public comment could influence the final rule language. The public comment period begins June 17.

1,4-Dioxane: High in wet sludge, absent in compost

DEQ samples also showed wet sludge from DAK contained 1,4-Dioxane levels as high as 138,000 parts per billion. 1,4-Dioxane clings to water, which could explain why concentrations were elevated in wet sludge, which had a moisture content of 97 percent. A second sludge sample, which contained 94 percent moisture, had lower levels of 1,4-Dioxane: 37,800 ppb.

No 1,4-Dioxane was detected in dried sludge or in the McGill compost.

The EPA classifies 1,4-Dioxane as a likely carcinogen, but doesn’t regulate it.

DEQ’s findings are similar to those revealed in a Policy Watch investigation earlier this year. The investigation, published in April, found that one sample taken from a seven-ton shipment of sludge from DAK to McGill contained 20,400 parts per billion of 1,4-Dioxane. Policy Watch also tested compost for 1,4-Dioxane; none was detected.

After Policy Watch alerted DEQ to the sampling results, environmental regulators conducted their own independent sampling of the compost and the sludge.

1,4-Dioxane is produced as a byproduct of manufacturing processes, including plastics. DAK legally discharges 1,4-Dioxane into the Cape Fear River, which, with its tributaries, the Deep River and the Haw River, is a hotspot for the compound, not just in North Carolina but nationwide.

In the past four years, Fayetteville, Pittsboro and Wilmington, all in the Cape Fear River Basin, have reported concentrations of 1,4-Dioxane in drinking water above the EPA’s voluntary health advisory goal of 0.35 parts per billion. North Carolina has also adopted the EPA drinking water recommendation, as well as the federal agency’s goal of 3 ppb for groundwater. There are no regulations for 1,4-Dioxane in sludge and compost.

Drinking water can become contaminated with 1,4-Dioxane in two main ways: If the solvent is spilled or otherwise enters the groundwater, such as through the land application of wet sludge, it can migrate to private drinking water wells. Or municipal plants withdraw water from contaminated rivers and lakes; traditional water treatment methods can’t remove 1,4-Dioxane, so the compound passes through, into water flowing from the tap.

MaterialSampling results (ppb) DEQ*Moisture content (%)Sampling results (ppb) Policy WatchMoisture content (%)
DAK sludge138,00097.120,40094.4
37,80094.4
ND13.2
McGill compostND45.8Non-detect43.7
ND38.3
ND24.7
ND48.7

In the samples above, as moisture content drops, so do the concentrations of 1,4-Dioxane.
ND = non-detect    Sources: DEQ (Gel labs), Policy Watch (Pace Analytical)

Compound NameConcentration (ppt) 30-60 dayConcentration (ppt) 90-180-day
NEtFOSAA2.562.46
NMeFOSAA10.79.66
Perfuoro-3,5-dioxahexanoic acid2.312.02
Perfluoro- 2-methoxyacetic acid1.59ND
Perfluoro-3-methoxypropanoic acid5.977.09
PFBS6.958.44
Perfluorobutanoic Acid3.785.8
PFDS0.7721.08
Perfluorodecanoic Acid5.705.20
Perfluorododecanoic Acid2.812.40
Perfluoroheptanoic Acid2.902.33
PFHxS0.4950.713
Perfluorohexanoic Acid54.846.6
Perfluorononanoic Acid2.071.64
Perfluorooctane Sulfonamide0.8230.824
PFOS10.310.9
Perfluorooctanic acid10.78.64
Perfluoropentanoic Acid9.558.08
Perfluorotetradecanoic Acid1.010.653
Perfluorotridecanoic Acid1.011
Perfluoroundecanoic Acid1.602.35
Total138.4127.8

 

The results were divided into two batches: When the compost was analyzed after 30 to 60 days, and had a moisture content of nearly 50 percent; and after 90 to 180 days, when the compost was slightly drier. Concentrations of seven types of PFAS increased over time.
ND = non-detect    Source: DEQ (Gel labs)

Courts & the Law, Environment

Court of Appeals approves plans for controversial asphalt plant near camp for seriously ill kids

Image: Google maps

In the fall of 2015, two land quality inspectors from the state Department of Environmental Quality drew the short straw. They had to visit the Glendale Springs quarry in rural Ashe County, an operation with a history of compliance problems and a disagreeable owner.

After the inspectors arrived, Danny Cecile, the father of quarry vice-president DJ Cecile, “produced a pistol from his pocket,” according to public DEQ records, and stated “that the pistol was in case any of the inspectors got ‘out of line.’”

The employees completed the inspection, but refused to go back without reinforcements. The lead inspector didn’t report the incident to law enforcement, the documents read, because “he felt like it would just aggravate the situation.”

Environmental and administrative law don’t require you to be pleasant. So when Cecile applied to DEQ to operate an asphalt plant next to the quarry, as long as the facility could comply with state and federal law, there was no legal reason to deny it.

Concerned citizens and the Ashe County planning director, though, fought the asphalt plant — and lost. A three-judge panel from the state Court of Appeals yesterday ruled unanimously in favor of Cecile and Appalachian Materials, allowing the controversial project to operate near the New River, as well as a quarter-mile from a camp for children with serious or terminal illnesses.

The court offered several reasons for the ruling, including that the county planning board was within its authority to overturn the director’s decision. The judges also ruled that the planning director’s cursory approval of plant’s application — submitted before the state’s air quality permit was finalized—was in part, binding.

And because of a state law, passed in 2015, Appalachian Materials can choose which of the county’s Polluting Industries Development Ordinances (PIDOs) it wants to be governed under: A previous one, valid when the company initially filed its permit and before the county enacted a moratorium on PIDOs, or the new, more stringent ordinance, approved after a moratorium was lifted. (See box for timeline.)

“The Court’s reasoning is a stunning piece of sophistry,” said Lou Zeller, executive director of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL), among the opponents of the project. “The Court has made a serious error in this case. Its procedural legal reasoning may rest upon precedent, but its humanity is hobbled by a blinkered view of what is most vital in this world. Save the children.”

Chad Essick, an attorney with Poyner Spruill, which represented Appalachian Materials, said they are pleased about the decision, and that the facility “is entitled to its local permit.”

It’s uncertain whether Ashe County will ask the state Supreme Court to hear the case. No one from the county returned an email seeking comment.

*****

Since 2006, Camp New Hope has offered a free getaway, with a lodge and outdoor activities for families who have children with life-threatening medical conditions, such as cancer, seizure disorders or cerebral palsy. “Eighty-five percent of our children are in wheelchairs, have feeding tubes are on some type of ventilator and can’t talk,” said Camp Director Randy Brown, in a 2017 letter to DEQ. “A quarter are legally blind. “My children are very, very sick. They come to the camp to get out to nature in a safe and healthful environment.”

Brown’s comments were included in a 2017 letter from BREDL to DEQ. In that letter, Zeller also asked the agency to reopen the permit for further public input. He pointed out that the Division of Air Quality’s modeling had not considered the campers — “vulnerable populations” —in approving the permit.

But even healthy people can be harmed by emissions from asphalt plants. These facilities emit nearly 30 toxic air pollutants — in varying allowable amounts, according to state and federal law — including arsenic, mercury and benzene.

DEQ bases its permitting decisions on whether the plants can meet air quality regulations. But in North Carolina, local governments have the final say-so over the construction and siting of new plants.

Asphalt plants are often located near quarries, which makes transporting the raw material between the two facilities easier and cheaper. Radford Quarries, owned by DJ Cecile, will supply raw material to the nearby Appalachian Materials asphalt plant.

Given Radford Quarries’ history of non-compliance, plant opponents worry the new facility could be operated the same way.

For example, runoff and other sediment from the quarry and mining property could pollute the New River watershed. The quarry, according to DEQ documents from 2015, “has had ongoing compliance issues … for many years.”

Cecile had allegedly begun grading the land for the asphalt plant before receiving state approval to do so. Stormwater run-off, buffers and piping were also non-compliant,” the documents read, adding that, “even when properly installed and initiated, follow-up of state requirements has not happened and conditions have deteriorated.”

However, later inspections from 2017 showed no sediment had entered the waterways, and a Division of Water Resources study showed the quarry had not affected the stream. But DEQ did issue Radford a Notice of Deficiency for grading land outside its mining plan. Radford in response, submitted a change to the plan.

Radford Quarries was issued a Notice of Violation related to stormwater at its Bamboo Road facility in Watauga County. Those violations were subsequently corrected.

If Ashe County does not ask the state Supreme Court to take the case — and  since the lower court’s ruling was unanimous, it isn’t required to do so — then Appalachian Materials will begin scraping the land and building the plant, with its attendant environmental impacts.

And so has ended a convoluted two-year legal battle, which Cecile won without having to fire a shot.

Timeline:
• June 2015: Appalachian Materials applied for a Polluting Industries Development Ordinance (PIDO) permit in Ashe County to build and operate an asphalt plant on Glendale School Road in Glendale Springs. At its peak, the plant would be capable of producing 300 tons of asphalt per hour and 300,000 tons each year.
• September 2015: Ashe County Board of Commissioners adopted a temporary moratorium on the issuance of PIDO permits, which put the plant’s application on hold.
• September 2015: State legislature passes “Permit Choice” law. It provides that “if a [county’s] rule or ordinance changes between the time a permit application is submitted and a permit decision is made, the permit applicant may choose which version of the rule or ordinance will apply.”
• September 2015: Appalachian Materials used the hiatus to apply to the state for its required air quality permit. Over strenuous public objection, the Division of Air Quality issued the permit in February 2016.
• April 2016: Based in part on the moratorium, the county planning director denied Appalachian Materials its PIDO permit. The company appealed to the planning board.
• Summer/fall 2016: While the board was deliberating, the commissioners lifted the moratorium, but repealed the PIDO. It created a new, more restrictive ordinance that would make it more difficult for Appalachian Materials to build its plant.
• December 2017: The planning board overturned the director’s decision, allowing the construction of the plant. A Superior Court judge agreed with the board, and Ashe County appealed the decision.
• 2018: Court of Appeals hears the case.
• 2019: Court of Appeals rules in favor of the planning board and Appalachian Materials.

Environment

A conundrum: rehabbing homes that have been damaged by a hurricane — and contaminated by GenX

Drinking water wells, which rely on groundwater, have tested positive for GenX nearly seven miles from the Chemours plant. Four homeowners who live within five miles have applied for federal housing disaster relief, which has presented a quandary for state officials. (Map: DEQ)

While Congress debates whether the EPA should regulate perfluorinated compounds, including GenX, the cost of inaction is playing out in North Carolina in an overlooked, yet significant way: hurricane relief.

In rebuilding or rehabbing homes damaged by Hurricane Matthew, state officials are encountering, for the first time, some houses whose water supplies have also been contaminated by GenX from the Chemours plant.

And the cost of cleaning up water contaminated with unregulated pollutants isn’t covered under housing disaster relief community development block grants.

“It’s not a storm-related damage so the cost isn’t reimbursable by HUD” — US Housing and Urban Development, said John Ebbighausen, chief of programs for the state Office of Recovery and Resilience. “But we have to bring the house up to code, and nothing hazardous can be there.”

The Office of Recovery and Resilience is a division of the Department of Public Safety; the housing disaster relief program is coordinated with the federal government and the state commerce department.

According to a letter from the state Office of Recovery and Resiliency to the NC Department of Environmental Quality, four homeowners who live within five miles of the Chemours plant have applied for housing disaster relief. The plant is near the Bladen-Cumberland county line.

Dozens of wells between three and five miles of the plant have tested positive for GenX, and roughly 20 had detections above the state health advisory goal of 140 parts per trillion. A few wells beyond the five-mile radius also had detections of GenX, but none above the state’s benchmark.

Federal law requires an environmental review for homes built or rehabbed under HUD’s disaster recovery program, as well as the land beneath. If a property is contaminated with chemicals that appear on the EPA’s list of hazardous substances list, then it must be cleaned up or mitigated; otherwise, it isn’t eligible for federal funds.

But the EPA hasn’t classified PFAS, including GenX, as hazardous. “There is no EPA guidance,” Ebbighausen said.

The Office of Recovery and Resilience has asked DEQ to determine the level of GenX contamination that would trigger a requirement for Chemours to pay for an alternate water supply.

“We need a piece of paper that we can take to Chemours and say, ‘You can install this, or our contractor will, and we’ll bill them,” Ebbighausen said.

Earlier this month, DEQ’s Director of Waste Management Michael Scott responded to Ebbighausen, noting that a recent consent order with Chemours includes provisions for alternate water supplies, based on thresholds of detectable PFAS in private well water.

Those alternatives include a connection to a public water supply, whole-house filtration and under-sink reverse osmosis systems. In some cases, it could be more protective for homes to receive a new, deeper drinking water well. However, only affected schools and public buildings are eligible for new well construction.

Scott said DEQ continues to sample private wells beyond a five-mile radius from the plant. Homes that are eligible for disaster relief and are within seven miles could have their well tested and if necessary, be provided with alternate water. Scott added that it would review groundwater and well sampling results for damaged properties between seven and 10 miles of Chemours.

Those boundaries could shift, Scott said, depending on ongoing well sampling. DEQ would notify disaster recovery officials of any changes.

Homes that sustained damage whose costs are equivalent to 50 percent of their prestorm tax value could be eligible for federal funding. Mobile homes with more than $5,000 in damage might also be eligible.

The deadline for homeowners to apply for disaster relief funds is May 31. This round of funding is applicable only for Hurricane Matthew damage.

The state is owed another $168 million in federal housing money for Hurricane Matthew recovery, Ebbighausen said. Earlier this week HUD awarded the state $336 million for housing damage caused by Hurricane Florence, far less than the $2 billion in damage caused by the historic storm.