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Lawmakers Approve Water-testing Bill; EPA Finds Other Unregulated Chemicals In Water

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Aug 31, 2017
State representatives have passed a bill that would provide funding to the University of North Carolina Wilmington and local utilities for water testing and treatment efforts, in the wake of GenX. State agencies testing for GenX, also announced Thursday that the EPA has discovered two additional unregulated chemicals in Wilmington’s water supply.
 
House Bill 56, part of a larger bill on state environmental laws, was approved by the N.C. House of Representatives on Aug. 31 and sent to Gov. Roy Cooper for his signature. The measure provides $435,000 to local utilities and UNCW for the efforts, according to a news release from House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland).

House Bill 56, part of a larger bill on state environmental laws, was approved by the N.C. House of Representatives on Aug. 31 and sent to Gov. Roy Cooper for his signature.
 
The House also approved accountability measures to begin addressing the discharge of GenX, an unregulated chemical found in Wilmington’s treated drinking water and linked to Chemours’ Fayetteville operations along the Cape Fear River upstream from Wilmington.
 
The bill initiates the development of an electronic filing system for chemical discharge permits to improve the administration’s water-quality process.
 
“In addition to appropriating funds for water treatment and testing, today’s proposal begins the development of an online, searchable database for the public and local officials to see what chemicals are discharged, to heighten transparency and improve accountability of the administration’s permitting process,” Moore said in the release.  
 
Last week, the state’s Environmental Review Commission convened in Wilmington, along with leaders of the state departments of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Health and Human Services for a discussion on the GenX issue in the Cape Fear region.
 
The hearing was open to the public. Members of The Chemours Co. were invited but declined to attend, Sen. Trudy Wade (R-Guilford) said during the hearing.
 
House members from the Cape Fear River Basin delegation, including Reps. Ted Davis (R-New Hanover), Holly Grange (R-New Hanover), Frank Iler (R-Brunswick) and Chris Millis (Pender), issued a joint statement in Thursday’s release by Moore, stating:
 
“We’ve passed a targeted proposal to determine the scope of the GenX discharge in the Cape Fear River and develop a reliable treatment system to protect the people of Southeastern North Carolina’s drinking water.”
 
The legislation also directs DEQ to explain why it has yet to issue a Notice of Violation (NOV) to Chemours by Sept. 8.
 
An NOV is an initial action to hold violators accountable, potentially requiring them to bear the cleanup costs of a non-permitted chemical discharge dumped into North Carolina waters, Moore explained in the release.
 
The DEQ also issued a release Thursday stating that it is urging Chemours to stop discharging to additional chemicals found by the EPA in water sampling tests. Water samplings have been ongoing along the Cape Fear River since mid-June.
 
EPA scientists told the state at a meeting with DEQ on Monday that they have identified two compounds they called “Nafion byproducts 1 and 2” in Chemours’ waste stream and that estimated concentrations of these compounds are not decreasing, according to the release issued.
 
The analysis about the presence of these chemicals comes from preliminary analysis of samples gathered at Chemours’ wastewater discharge outfall in Fayetteville and at the Cape Fear Public Utility’s Sweeny Water Treatment Plant in Wilmington.
 
The EPA is conducting ongoing analysis for these new chemicals, as well as GenX and three other perfluorinated compounds that were previously identified in the Cape Fear River by a 2016 study by the EPA and researchers with N.C. State University.
 
The EPA chose to analyze the water samples for the Nafion byproducts based on a separate prior study by the federal agency, DEQ officials said.
 
After Chemours said it had stopped discharging GenX, estimated concentrations of GenX and the three perfluorinated compounds have dropped significantly, DEQ officials said in the release.
 
DEQ said it would review all this information as part of its investigation and the agency’s review of Chemours’ application for a new wastewater discharge permit, which expired in October. The Chemours permit is among DEQ’s two-year backlog of wastewater discharge permits across the state.
 
New Hanover County commissioners, County Manager Chris Coudriet and County Public Health Director Phillip Tarte released a statement in response to the news about the identification of two additional unregulated chemical compounds in the Cape Fear River.
 
“New Hanover County, in a letter to Governor Roy Cooper signed by New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chairman Woody White, is insisting that NC DEQ demand, not ‘urge,’ Chemours to immediately stop discharging compounds into the Cape Fear River,” the statement said. “The state should either reopen the existing, albeit expired, permit or issue a new permit that restricts these discharges until we have information on the human health impacts of these compounds."
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