Following on the heels of the House unanimously passing a bill providing $2.3 million in GenX funding Senate leadership has indicated it has no interest in the bill.
Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) released a statement following the House passing the bill in a 116-0 vote saying, “Senate Republicans have already shown we are serious about finding real solutions that will actually improve water quality in the Cape Fear River and hold violators accountable for dumping GenX into the region’s water supply. That’s why several months ago we passed legislation to immediately and directly address the problem of GenX contamination in the lower Cape Fear region. We provided funding to local public utilities to begin removing GenX from public water supplies. And we commissioned studies to quantify the amount of GenX in the Cape Fear River and determine the impact it could have on public health and safety. The first round of data is due this spring.
“What the House passed today unfortunately does nothing to prevent GenX from going into the water supply,” Berger continued. “It leaves North Carolina taxpayers holding the bag for expenditures that should be paid for by the company responsible for the pollution, fails to give DEQ authority to do anything they can’t already do, and authorizes the purchase of expensive equipment that the state can already access for free. We are waiting for the data we required in October so we can take meaningful action to address this problem in the short session.”
Most of the $2.3 million was pulled from the Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) current budget, though about $1 million was pulled from the General Fund and the state’s rainy day fund. House Bill 189, as the House passed it, appropriates money for the monitoring of GenX, and other contaminants, among other things related to the perflourinated compound discovered in discharge water from Chemours’ Fayetteville Works facility in the Cape Fear region.
House leaders say that the legislation came out of a series of public hearings and collaboration between the legislature and the DEQ.
The legislation will fund equipment, as well as staff, to help monitor and better detect contaminants in pursuit of improved water quality in the state.
“The House’s water quality legislation modifies state policy and purchases important machinery to ensure the safety of citizens and the accountability of companies in North Carolina,” House Speaker Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) said. “This proposal is a result of a thorough oversight committee process and bipartisan collaboration. It is a significant step to protect our state’s drinking water.”
The bill allocates $1.3 million from a program within DEQ to study new ways to manage pollutants in Jordan Lake and Falls Lake that was written into the current budget.
The bill would also, if approved in the Senate, appropriate $25,000 that was originally earmarked to go to the town of Stedman in Cumberland County to fix the Town Hall after a tree fell on it.
The local Stedman government no longer needed the $25,000 after the town’s insurance company ended up covering all of the damage from the tree.
From the $ 1.3 million, $813,000 would be used to hire staff at the Division of Water Resources for water quality sampling for GenX and other contaminants, and to address backlogs in issuing permits. An amount of $232,950 would be used at the Division of Air Quality for sampling and analysis of atmospheric deposition of GenX and other contaminants and $279,050 would be used by the Division of Waste Management for sampling and analysis GenX and other contaminants in groundwater wells, soil and sediment.
Roughly $1 million would also be appropriated from the remaining balance of the General Fund and the state Contingency and Emergency Fund to DEQ to purchase new equipment needed to better evaluate the threat to public safety GenX may pose as well as being able to more efficiently sample and test to track GenX.
The bill also requires a comprehensive review of the state’s permit disclosure requirements and seeks recommendations to ensure full transparency in the permitting process.
“We conducted a thorough process of committee deliberations and bill drafting in the House to get this right and remove politics from the conversation,” Rep. Frank Iler (R-Brunswick) said.
Iler co-chairs the House Select Committee on North Carolina River Quality.
The proposal also requires that North Carolina maintain communication with neighboring states in monitoring the flow of contaminants across borders.
The bill requires DEQ to share information with its counterpart organizations in Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.
“The state House built a solid foundation from which to proceed and protect our citizens’ drinking water now and decades into the future,” Rep. John Szoka (R-Cumberland) said.
Szoka represents a portion of the Cape Fear River basin. Now the legislation goes to the Senate for consideration.