Poisoned by Politics

According to a Harvard study referenced in an article published today by North Carolina Health News, North Carolina ranks third in the nation for detectable levels of PFOA and PFOS toxins (the ones that have specifically been linked to cancer) in our drinking water supplies.  

GenX, Nafion, and the other unknowns that have been discovered in our river do NOT have an EPA health advisory exposure limit (let alone the compounds lurking in our water that we have not yet detected - 'the unknown unknowns' - as described by Duke University's Lee Ferguson at this week's House Select Committee on North Carolina River Quality).  No regulations exist on any of these compounds, and the science to detect them is expensive - that's scary.

But, even with more knowledge and an EPA health advisory lifetime exposure limit set at 70 parts per trillion, North Carolina has the third highest amount of drinking water supplies in our country that exceed this limit for PFOA & PFOS.  North Carolina waters across our state are also contaminated with, among countless others, 1,4 dioxane from corporate processes in Asheboro, Reidsville, and Greensboro; and hexavalent chromium, found in wells near Duke Energy coal-fired plants.

We have reached the space in time where the effects of deregulation have bubbled to the surface and they are unpalatable.  Protections to our air and water have been slashed, through years of business-friendly policies led by Gov. Pat McCrory and Duke energy executive turned head of NC DEQ (the name changed during his tenure from the Dpt. of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to its current, Dpt of Environmental Quality DEQ)). 

Amy Adams who worked for DENR from 2004-2013, said in an article published in the Atlantic that, "Beginning in 2013, DENR staffers were instructed to focus on customer service, the 'customers' being permit-seeking businesses...there was a new push to work with and handhold corporations rather than hold them accountable to the level that we always had before.” 

According to DEQ, since 2013, 69 compliance and enforcement positions were eliminated, making it harder for the department to monitor permits and permittees.

Yet, at both of the meetings held with legislative officials about the Chemours contamination (the Environmental Review Commission meeting held in August, and the House Committee on Water Quality meeting held this week), our legislative officials spent most of their time grilling DEQ officials about how and why this contamination happened, rather than asking them how and why they can help them so this does not happen again. 

Instead of funding our DEQ and Dpt. of Health and Human Services, our legislators instead decided to throw money at the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, an organization that 1). does not serve the state 2). does not have statutory authority to regulate corporations 3). does not have a plan to address the issue at the source, but instead seeks to use funds to create new, expensive filtration methods at the plant 4). failed to inform the public about the issue, after Dr. Detlaf Knappe notified them; and 5). may be a tool for those seeking to politicize this issue, as published in report after report after report

The vote to override Governor Cooper's veto of HB56 is on the agenda in the General Assembly this week. The title of this bill should be the title of the summary of actions taken by this General Assembly over the last several years: "Amend Environmental Laws."   Among the many business-friendly amendments in this bill, it seeks to repeal a successful plastic bag ban and remove protections for riparian buffers, (which will increase stormwater pollution in our waterways), and it includes a plan to help corporate trash haulers make more money by allowing them to cherry-pick routes, at the expense of county waste management departments.

A band-aid of funds for CFPUA and UNCW was slapped on this controversial bill at the last moment.  Was it the intention of the legislators to paint the State in a corner, so they could claim that a veto of this bill is a veto of clean water protections?  Our legislators keep saying it's time to stop playing politics with our water, while they play politics with our water.

Many in our area - who are fortunate enough to afford it - are forced to buy water or water filtration systems for our home and to send in with our kids to school; we are not eating or drinking at local restaurants; we are watching our kids' illnesses more closely, wondering what might be causing that cough.  Some of you are dealing with much more dreadful questions - wondering what caused that miscarriage or that sister's cancer.

Our legislative officials were voted into office by convincing many voters that our environmental regulations needed trimming so we could attract more businesses, more jobs. Did that happen? Did these cuts to environmental policies enhance your life, increase your wages, or get you a job? Or did they instead just help secure the jobs of the legislative officials whose policies supported the corporations that fund their campaigns?  Did we all just get poisoned by politics? 

Enough is enough.  

Contact your Senator.
Contact your House member.

Dana SargentComment