And one that desperately needs to be solved:
It's been two years since communities surrounding the Cape Fear River found out their water supply had been contaminated by a compound known as GenX, part of the group of hazardous chemicals called PFAS. Today, New Hanover County residents say they still need answers.
Emily Donovan, who co-founded the group Clean Cape Fear, said local residents remain in the dark. "A lack of information does not equal 'safe,' and that's where we have been living for the last two years," she said. "We've been living with a lack of information, and we're being continually told the water is still safe to drink."
One of the most frustrating aspects of this problem is the "locked vault" when dealing with industrial chemical compounds. No doubt Chemours has a ton of information about GenX, but between preserving trade secrets and shielding the company from legal exposure, that information might as well not exist:
Donovan said regulatory loopholes in the permitting process allow companies such as Chemours to discharge GenX and other proprietary compounds without having to disclose any information about them. She said GenX initially received a lot of media attention as a compound scientists were able to detect and identify. However, she said, little is known about other chemicals or byproducts that could have seeped into the Cape Fear River.
"In our area, we have an increase in testicular cancer; there's cause for concern for liver or kidney, and then, we also have thyroid cancer," she said. "What's tricky is to track down the other health risks because these are chemicals that have not been very well studied."
State Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Greensboro, and other legislators have introduced House Bill 568, which would make it mandatory for companies to provide information about the chemicals they discharge and would suspend the permits of those that release unauthorized or undisclosed pollutants.
Of course Republicans have buried that bill in three subsequent committees, the last one (if it survives the first two) being the kiss-of-death Rules committee. Not only are they afraid to take any regulatory action against private corporations, they also don't want to give Roy Cooper or Michael Regan even a fraction of the support they need to do their jobs:
FUNDS TO THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY SECTION 5.(a) There is appropriated from the General Fund to the Department of Environmental Quality the sum of six million fifty-five thousand five hundred fifty-two dollars ($6,055,552) in recurring funds, which shall be used for 37 full-time equivalent positions, to include 15 environmental scientists, 10 engineers, four hydro-geologists, three business analysts, two administrative staff, one chemist, one economist, and one statistician to address emerging compounds.
SECTION 5.(b) There is appropriated from the General Fundto the Department of Environmental Quality the sum of three hundred thirty-six thousand four hundred forty-one dollars ($336,441) in nonrecurring funds for the 2019-2020 fiscal year to be used to acquire a mobile lab to help respond to hurricanes and algal blooms in order to expedite restoration of impacted drinking water systems impacted by such conditions.
Which is eerily similar to requests those two men made shortly after the GenX problem was discovered. Of course Republicans spent the money elsewhere, and we have no answers.
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