The Legislature on Wednesday successfully overrode Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of a bill that will send money directly to the Cape Fear Region to study and combat the GenX crisis in the area.
GenX is a by-product of Teflon production from the chemical company Chemours, an offshoot of DuPont, which is currently not regulated for discharge into water.
Chemours has since been ordered to cease dumping GenX or any other perflourinated chemicals into the Cape Fear River.
House Bill 56 directs $435,000 directly to the area to study the water and upgrade water treatment facilities in the area.
The University of North Carolina at Wilmington will receive $250,000 to quantify the amount of GenX in the Cape Fear River and how long it will take the GenX to degrade in the water.
The remaining $185,000 will go 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 law also repeals a 2009 partial plastic bag ban for three coastal counties, a goal of Republicans for years.
Cooper said he vetoed the regulatory reform bill because it did not give money to the state as he had requested but instead sent the money directly to the local utilities that are tasked with ensuring that the Cape Fear Region has access to clean and safe drinking water.
In his veto message Cooper said, “Clean water is critical for our health and our economy and this legislation fails to appropriate any needed funds to the departments in state government charged with setting standards and enforcing laws to prevent illegal chemical discharges into rivers used for drinking water.”
The House passed the veto override in a 70-44 vote, clearing the three-fifths threshold to override vetoes by one vote.
In the Senate the veto override vote passed with a wider margin, going to a 30-9 vote along party lines, with some Democrats and Republicans absent from the chamber, though two Democratic senators did not vote on the veto override, Sens. Floyd McKissick (D-Durham) and Ben Clark (D-Cumberland).
Of the veto override House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) said, “Providing immediate resources for water treatment facilities and researchers in Southeastern North Carolina was an important step to protect the people of the Cape Fear region. “We will continue to hold hearings in the House Select Committee on North Carolina River Quality to investigate the GenX contamination and develop solutions that ensure administrative accountability and clean drinking water for our citizens.”
After the override vote Sens. Michael Lee (R-New Hanover) and Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick), both from the Cape Fear Region, released a statement saying, “It’s a shame that families in the lower Cape Fear region had to wait this long for a solution because of the governor’s veto, but we are pleased our Senate colleagues ended the delay and helped make this local solution that will actually help clean our drinking water a reality.”