Three GenX Bills and a Call to Action

The General Assembly introduced three bills on managing the water quality crisis we are facing due to emerging contaminants like GenX.

  • Representatives Davis, Grange, Iler, and Brisson introduced House Bill 972.
  • Senators Lee, Rabon, and Meredith introduced Senate Bill 724.
    • They are identical.
  • Representatives Butler, Harrison, W. Richardson, and Floyd introduced House Bill 968.
    • It is not at all identical to the others – but, it is not likely that our legislature will consider it.

With that, the environmental community has reviewed the bills that will likely be considered by the legislature (H 972 and S 724).  Read their response below and share it with others using the following link: Environmental Community Response to H 972 and S 724

H 972/S 724
Insufficient Response to GenX Pollution
 

Funding

The large majority of the $10.3M in funding proposed in this bill would go to the NC Policy Collaboratory to fund university-based research. The Legislature has cut the DEQ budget for seven consecutive years; it is now critically important to shore up the agency. The cuts to water programs include a 41% reduction in water quality staff (70 positions). Inadequate staffing at DEQ has resulted in a backlog of 40% of existing permits, allowing dischargers to continue to operate under expired permits which may not require the necessary pollution controls.

More Harm than Good

Section One may interfere with ongoing court cases and push DEQ toward a slower process that could tie up the enforcement action in administrative appeals before ever reaching a court. Although this section appears to give the Governor new legal authority to shut down Chemours, the Secretary of DEQ, with the concurrence of the Governor, already has authority under existing law to order a facility to immediately halt air or water contamination that is causing a generalized condition of pollution that imperils public health. In addition, this section would expire in December of 2020, so would not apply broadly to pollution and public health emergencies going forward.

Section One applies to “discharges,” which are intentionally defined not to include air emissions. Investigations have confirmed that most of the GenX in surface and groundwater is from air emissions, but this bill would not allow DEQ to consider air emissions before initiating actions to halt the pollution. In 2012, the legislature

amended state law to prohibit any air emissions that pollute waters from being considered a “discharge,” in effect authorizing by law all air emissions that pollute waters.

Section Four potentially impacts DEQ’s existing authority with respect to groundwater contamination. The well-established principle that forms the basis of state groundwater rules is that the company that caused the contamination is responsible for developing and paying for a plan to assess and remediate groundwater

contamination. Section Four does not mention the polluter’s role. Instead, it appears to shift the entire responsibility onto DEQ.

Section Twelve creates a scheme where someone may be liable for contamination even if their discharge of PFAS is inadvertent. For example, it could come from dissolved PFASs in laundry or dishwashing greywater. This section is so broadly worded that it could create liability for wastewater treatment plants simply because PFASs have been widely used in consumer products for decades.

Process

The contents of this bill warrant full consideration: committee meetings, the opportunity for public comments, and the possibility of amendments. Early last fall, the legislature established a committee in each chamber to ensure a full and transparent process to solve the problem of emerging contaminants. This is not something that should be dropped into a conference report or the budget straight from the corner offices. The 250,000+ people who have been impacted by the GenX crisis deserve nothing less.


A Clean Water Matters Call to Action

These bills fall short. The NCDEQ has been gutted for the past seven years and is dealing with a massive backlog in permitting, while shuffling staff to handle the GenX crisis.  They need full funding to handle the water quality issues across our entire state.

If you agree, please make 3 calls:

Suggested script: When considering the bills on emerging contaminants, I urge you to protect people – not polluters and give the NC DEQ – the only environmental regulatory body in the state – the full $14.5 million needed to identify and stop water contamination across our state.

  • Call Speaker Moore at 919-733-3451
  • Call your representative in the house
  • Call you state senator

Below are the numbers for our regional leadership in the Senate and the House. If your senator and representative are not listed, or you’re not sure who represents you, click HERE and enter your address.

Senator Mike Lee 919 715 2525
Sentator Bill Rabon 919 733 5963
Rep. Holly Grange 919 733 5830
Rep. Deb Butler 919-733-5754
Rep. Ted Davis 919 733 5786
Rep. Frank Iler 919 301 1450


For you policy wonks out there who want more specifics on the bills – read on.

House Bill 972 – sponsored by Representatives Davis, Grange, Iler, and Brisson and
Senate Bill 724 sponsored by Senators Lee, Rabon, and Meredith

Identical bills that call for:

  •  $8 million to the North Carolina Policy Collaboratory to:
    • coordinate water sampling and analysis across the university system using university equipment;
    • develop models to predict which private wells are most at risk of contamination from the discharge of GenX and other emerging contaminants;
    • test the performance of granular activated carbon;
    • and study the air emissions and atmospheric deposition of  GenX and other emerging compounds.
  • $2,341,736 to NC Dpt. of Environmental Quality (DEQ): 
    • $537,000 to purchase a specific type of mass spectrometer (NOT a “High-Resolution” Mass Spectrometer, which is necessary to identify these compounds)
    • $479,736 to support DEQs role in the NC Policy Collaboratory’s management of water quality analysis and monitoring
    • $613,000 to the Division of Water Resources for time-limited positions and operations support of water quality sampling and targeted analysis, and to purchase supplies for operation of the mass spectrometer
    • $200,000 to the Division of Water Resources for time-limited positions and operations support to address permitting backlogs.
    • $232,950 to the Division of Air Quality for sampling and analysis of atmospheric deposition of PFAS
    • $279,050 to the Division Waste Management for sampling and analysis of PFAS in groundwater wells, soil, and sediment.
  • $450,000 for the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority to:
    • Conduct non-targeted testing of finished water from the Sweeney treatment plant and water in the Aquifer Storage and Recovery Well (ASR) – to identify any and all PFAS or other chemical compounds in the water.
    • Install temporary ion exchange and carbon filtration systems and test their effectiveness.
  • $530,839 in recurring funds for DHHS to establish a water health and safety unit, which may include a medical risk assessor, a toxicologist, an epidemiologist or informatics expert, and a health educator.
  • The bill makes it harder for the state to force a facility to cease operations due to PFAS contamination in that it requires that the facility has:
    • Received more than one notice of violation from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) within a two-year period;
    • And that the facility has discharged PFAS into the air, surface water, AND groundwater in violation of federal or state drinking water standards or human health goals;
    • AND that the DEQ has known about the discharge for at least one year.
  • It requires that DEQ create and implement a remediation plan to clean up contaminated groundwater and surface water and submit plan by Jan 1, 2019 – this should fall on the polluter.
  • It hampers further the process of setting a state health goal in that it requires the DHHS work with NUMEROUS organizations on the process.
  • It requires permit-holders to submit documentation of pollutants with a CAS (Chemical Abstracts Service) number in their current NPDES permit and certify under oath that the data is accurate to their knowledge.
    • [This would not have included emerging contaminant byproducts as there is no CAS number for these.]

House Bill 968-Sponsored by
Representatives Butler, Harrison, W. Richardson, and Floyd

$14,052,717 to DEQ in funds as follows:

  • $6,996,333 in recurring funds for positions and operations support to collect and analyze data and address NPDES permit backlogs
  • $1,019,050 in nonrecurring funds for scientific analytical equipment, time‑limited positions
  • $1,500,000 in nonrecurring funds for planning associated with needed upgrades to the Department’s Reedy Creek Laboratory, in which water quality, water resources, and air quality analysis is performed.
  • $2,643,474 in recurring funds for positions and operations support for the Department to launch a permitting transformation project to improve transparency and streamline the permitting process by providing online access and tracking for all permits.
  • $1,893,860 in nonrecurring funds for time‑limited positions and operations support for the Department to launch a permitting transformation project to improve transparency and streamline the permitting process by providing online access and tracking for all permits

And an additional $250,000 in recurring funds to DEQ to partially restore funds eliminated by the 2017 budget appropriations law.

$536,000 in recurring funds to DHHS for positions to identify and prevent adverse health effects due to toxic substances, including a medical risk assessor, a toxicologist, an epidemiologist, and a public health educator.

Prohibit any facility from discharging into state waters any toxic waste for which the EPA or the state has not established a health advisory limit.

If a facility is found to discharge a toxic waste without a standard or health advisory limit, or above such limits, the permit will immediately be suspended by the Environmental Management Commission.

Facility must include any discharges in its permit request; if a chemical does not have a CAS number, the facility must provide sufficient detail on the characteristics of the pollutant in the permit request.

Facility must provide filtration and treatment for water supplies contaminated with pollutant not authorized by permit, or in excess of permitted limits.

7 thoughts on “Three GenX Bills and a Call to Action

  1. Finally, its been more than 30 years that they were allowed to pollute our water. What do you think of the river being renamed as a swamp?

    1. Hi Mary. Thanks for your comment. We hope the legislature reconsiders this bill to ensure our DEQ has the capacity to protect our drinking water from polluters. We disagree wholeheartedly with the reclassification of a portion of the Lower Cape Fear River. You can find more information on that topic under the heading ‘Cape Fear Swamp’ on this site.

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