The House and Senate this week passed legislation to direct moneys to local officials in the lower Cape Fear region to work to understand and resolve the GenX water issue in the Cape Fear River.
The legislation also seeks to empower the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to enforce the law in regards to the company that is releasing the Teflon production by-product into the river, Chemours, which is a subsidiary of DuPont.
The legislation, which was crafted in a conference committee between the chambers, will direct $250,000 to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNC-W) to quantify the amount of GenX in the Cape Fear River, as well as how long it takes GenX to degrade in the water.
UNC-W will also be tasked with determining the impact the chemical could have on public health and safety, currently there are no federal regulations regarding the dumping of GenX.
The bill also provides $185,000 to the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority and other local public utilities, to develop treatment technologies to remove GenX from the water supply and to ensure that the treatment is working through ongoing monitoring.
The legislation also begins the formation of an electronic filing database to speed up water quality permitting in the state by utilizing an online, searchable database where the public and local officials can find information on permits that have already been approved.
In regards to the DEQ, the legislation directs the agency to explain why no notices of violations have been issued to Chemours, if notice has not been sent by the end of the week, a Senate release said.
It has been close to three months since the GenX issue became known and DEQ still has not issued any notices of violations informing the company that it is suspected of violating state law in regards to dumping.
The release said, “An NOV is typically the first step to holding violators accountable and potentially requiring them to bear the cost of remediation that is needed as a result of their illegal actions. Since early August, lawmakers have twice asked the DEQ secretary why his agency has not yet issued an NOV, but they have not received a direct response.”
“This plan is an important first step – it gives local authorities who’ve been on the ground dealing with this issue since day one the immediate tools to begin addressing GenX contamination,” said Sens. Michael Lee (R-New Hanover) and Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick.) “We expect the General Assembly will continue exercising its oversight responsibilities in the coming weeks to better understand what happened and to determine appropriate strategies to identify and address concerns going forward.”
Last week lawmakers met in Wilmington for the first of many expected meetings to investigate the GenX discharge to review what happened along with Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration’s response.
Questions have arisen as to what Cooper, and his administration knew about the GenX contamination, and when it was known.
Questions legislators have said must be answered before appropriating money to DEQ for studying the GenX issue, as Cooper requested.
Also this week both the House and Senate announced membership of two select committees on North Carolina river quality, which will be looking into the GenX issue in the coming weeks.
Of the committee North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) said, “The House will reinforce its ongoing investigation into water quality and Cape Fear River contaminants to best address this issue of utmost importance to North Carolinians. This select committee can move quickly to analyze the administration’s response, consider legislative recommendations and provide full transparency and accountability to citizens facing this crisis.”
The House committee is made up of Rep. Ted Davis (R-New Hanover), Rep. Holly Grange (R-New Hanover), Rep. Frank Iler (R-Brunswick), Rep. Chris Millis (R-Pender), Rep. William Brisson (R-Bladen), Rep. Jimmy Dixon (R-Duplin), Rep. Kyle Hall (R-Stokes), Rep. Pricey Harrison (R-Guilford), Rep. Pat McElraft (R-Carteret), Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson), Rep. Bob Steinburg (R-Camden) and Rep. Larry Yarborough (R-Granville).
Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), on Wednesday, said “This select committee will play a key role in obtaining answers to the outstanding questions about what happened with the GenX discharge and how the governor’s administration responded, and it will look for solutions to improve water quality in our state’s rivers.”
The Senate committee is made up of, Sen. Trudy Wade (R-Guilford), Sen. Dan Bishop (R-Mecklenburg), Sen. Angela Bryant (R-Halifax), Sen. Brent Jackson (R-Duplin), Sen. Michael Lee (R-New Hanover), Sen. Paul Newton (R-Cabarrus), Sen. Bill Rabon (R-Bladen), Sen. Norman Sanderson (R-Carteret), Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram (D-Bertie) and Sen. Andy Wells (R-Alexander)