drinking water contamination

GENX contamination emerges as a major campaign issue for NC Dems

And Republicans' defunding of environmental protection is coming back to haunt them:

Democrats also are making a push for House and Senate seats held by Republicans in and around coastal Wilmington. Favored by beachgoers and transplanted out-of-state retirees, the region became fixated last year on the presence of a little-studied chemical compound, GenX, in the Cape Fear River, which provides drinking water to many.

In campaign ads, Democrats and environmental groups are blaming GOP incumbents for passing budgets that reduced staff in the state environmental department responsible for water quality, and for failing to do enough for the river cleanup.

But it's not just the coastal & Cape Fear watershed areas where this is a big campaign issue; right here in Alamance County, GOP Legislators are being raked over the coal (ash) in numerous ads that began on Facebook but have jumped to radio and other Internet venues, like the intro to Youtube videos. And it's not just one group funding these environmental spots, there are several running ads similar to this one:

The anatomy of an environmental bad actor: DuPont's Teflon cover-up

The fallacy of allowing industry to self-regulate:

Thirty-four years ago, an employee from a DuPont plant near Parkersburg, West Virginia, filled a jug with tap water from a little general store just across the Ohio River called Mason’s Village Market. An internal DuPont document shows that the company was secretly testing the water for ammonium perfluorooctanoate — better known as C8. DuPont employees also took samples from stores in eight other unsuspecting communities in the Ohio River Valley.

The document shows C8 was detected at three stores closest to the plant, including Mason’s Village Market in Little Hocking, Ohio. It also shows that, at one of those stores, the level of C8 measured more than 20 times higher than what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today considers safe for drinking water.

Their actions (or inaction) is proof the only reason they conducted this testing was to determine future legal exposure, not whether they should change their behavior for the safety of citizens. This compound has been slightly modified 3-4 times over the years, and again, it appears the reasons for those modifications was not to make them safer, just provide deniability. GenX is the most recent iteration, and here we are starting with a blank slate on just how toxic it is. But at least we seem to be ahead of the game compared to these poor folks:

Berger's GenX "fix" earmarks $1 million for newly created Collaboratory

While refusing to fund the purchase of a Mass Spectrometer for DEQ:

The bill contains similar funding to the House version, which Senate leadership rejected outright last month. But instead of directing the state Department of Environmental Quality to buy a high-resolution mass spectrometer, the Senate version tells DEQ to use spectrometers already in place on public university campuses.

In addition to $2.4 million in new, one-time money, the Senate bill would re-direct $1 million a year in university system funding to the North Carolina Policy Collaboratory at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which is run by Jeffrey Warren, a former science adviser to Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger.

And as a glaring example of Berger's failure to grasp irony, the bill also directs DEQ to cooperate with an EPA investigation that a) Doesn't exist yet because Trudy Wade and her Three Mouseketeers just asked for it, and b) Is based on DEQ's alleged inability to perform tasks the NCGA has seriously cut funding for. But irony aside for the moment, let's talk about that Collaboratory. Warren is actually the Research Director now and not the Director/Director, and he does have some serious scientific creds. That being said, it's all about the mission he's been given by Berger, and that mission focuses way too heavily on economics and not nearly enough on actual scientific solutions to water quality issues. From the Collaboratory's project on Jordan Lake:

In rural NC, economics often clashes with environmentalism

chemoursgenx.jpg

But what benefits one county may poison another:

Heavily agricultural and rural Bladen County southeast of Fayetteville, has two cornerstone businesses on its tax rolls. There’s Smithfield, the world’s largest pork processing plant, and The Chemours Company’s Fayetteville Works site. “The Fayetteville Works site generates just over a million dollars of revenue for Bladen County a year,” said Chuck Heustess, executive director of Bladen County’s Economic Development Commission.

Heustess said Chemours brings more than just decent paying jobs to Bladen and neighboring counties. He said the company pays for services -- everything from landscaping to catering.

Which is common practice for polluting industries, funneling a fraction of their profits into buying loyalty from local governments. Or I should say, placing them in a position where they can't afford to lose said polluting industry. The perspective from New Hanover County, however, is exactly the opposite:

Wilmington Mayor concerned about GenX, not sure water is safe to drink

Caught between a rock and a hard place:

“People ask me constantly, ‘Is the water safe to drink?’” former Wilmington Mayor Harper Peterson told lawmakers during a hearing on water pollution. “And I can’t answer that. I take a precautionary approach, and I think we all should. I think we shouldn’t be drinking the water.”

Wilmington is downstream of the Fayetteville Works plant run by Chemours (formerly by DuPont), which has for years been discharging a chemical called GenX into the Cape Fear River that serves as the main source of drinking water for southeastern North Carolina. Chemours and DuPont split a $670 million settlement earlier this year over health complaints from people exposed to a chemical similar in makeup to GenX, called C8. The companies have said GenX is safer; no public studies have so far linked it to serious health risks in humans, although it is largely untested aside from some experiments on lab animals that have linked it to health problems.

I can't imagine the pressure he's under. There's over 117,000 people relying on that water, and that's just those inside the City limits. The number's probably considerably higher. It takes a cast-iron set to make the statement he did, and of course some people are not happy with him saying it:

Sorry Not Sorry: Chemours "accidentally" spills more Genx into Cape Fear

Old (nasty) habits are apparently hard to break:

In a press release Thursday afternoon, officials with the state Department of Environmental Quality said preliminary data revealed a spike in the levels of GenX in untreated water near the chemical company's Fayetteville Works facility in Bladen County. After contacting the company, DEQ spokesman Jamie Kritzer said Chemours officials revealed that workers had spilled dimer acid fluoride during planned maintenance at the plant Oct. 6.

Dimer acid fluoride effectively breaks down in water into the equivalent of GenX, a poorly studied and unregulated contaminant in a family of chemicals linked to cancer and other negative health effects. Kritzer said it's unclear how much of the chemical leaked or how long it spilled into the Cape Fear River.

As our Riverkeepers and their cadre of volunteer water watchers will tell you, such "accidents" happen way too often to not be intentional. Whether it's polluting industries or municipal wastewater treatment plants, there are numerous cases of "Oops!" that occur every year. Because making it somebody else's problem is the easiest way to deal with chemicals and sewage. Until it starts costing you a lot of money, which is what needs to happen.

Wilmington resident files potential class-action lawsuit over GenX

Sometimes waiting for official actions is not enough:

Filed in Federal District Court in Wilmington on behalf of city resident Brent Nix, the suit seeks health monitoring for illnesses that may be caused by GenX and similar contaminants released into the Cape Fear River from Chemours’s plant 160 km upriver in Fayetteville, N.C. In addition, it seeks compensation for lost property value on behalf of Nix and as many as 100,000 additional plaintiffs should the court certify the case as a class-action suit.

According to the suit, “defendants have negligently and otherwise acted to cause toxic chemicals to be released from the Fayetteville Works Site, which then traveled to and contaminated and damaged the properties and household water supplies of plaintiff and class members, and exposed them to toxic chemicals.”

Go get 'em, Brent. These corporate polluters have been playing (and mostly winning) the game of profits outpacing the legal costs of bad behavior for way too long, and civil court may be the only way to force them into a "Come to Jesus" moment to change their ways.

OWASA crisis: Fluoridation mishap or water main break?

Better get your bottled water now, before the rioting and looting in Chapel Hill begins:

Do Not Drink Order: Due to low pressure in the OWASA service area we are not sure if the water is safe for consumption. Until testing has been completed, the Orange County Health Department is issuing a Do Not Drink order. Boiling water is not recommended. Only bottled water is recommended.

Do Not Use Order: Because of the water main break and the subsequent shortage, we are also issuing a Do Not Use order. Bottled water should be used for all water needs including flushing toilets, washing hands, cooking, etc…

Restaurants: All restaurants served by OWASA are being ordered closed by the Orange County Health Director.

I suppose it's possible somebody tipped the fluoride bottle too heavily (That's not really how they do it) first, and then the water main decided it was time to break, but that sounds more like a bad made-for-TV movie than real life. So this is not only a "learning experience" about not taking potable water for granted, there's also a "messaging" lesson to be learned...

McCrory's office directly tied to "your water is just fine" message

Endangering the health and welfare of his constituents:

Gov. Pat McCrory's communication office directed state health officials to use the controversial language telling well owners near coal ash pits that their wells met federal standards despite objections from a state scientist, according to a deposition released Thursday.

In her sworn statement, Department of Health and Human Services Communication Director Kendra Gerlach says language on state Health Risk Evaluation forms came "from the Capitol building," a reference to the Governor's Office.

Pay-to-play corruption is bad enough, but when you actively deceive residents about the dangers of their industry-tainted drinking water, you've crossed a line that can't be walked back.

High levels of Uranium found in Wake County's water wells

And it appears officials have been actively concealing the problem:

According to the test results which the lab technician entered at her computer (Supplemental Figure 1), the backyard well which quenched the thirst of the family on Raleigh’s Stillmeadow Road contained more than ten times the maximum uranium level allowable under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

When Wake County officials reached out to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in 2014 seeking its help with this increasingly obvious threat, they were "advised" by DHHS officials to "consider the can of worms you’re opening up," according to a past county health official interviewed for this report on condition of anonymity.

That idiotic "can of worms" statement might as well have come directly out of Aldona Wos's mouth. Negligence by DHHS aside, the County should have informed not only those affected, but the general public, as well. And (of course) the Hometicks are right up in the middle of this cover-up:

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