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.