Star News: Anti-regulatory General Assembly hamstrings water quality checks
Republicans in the General Assembly have spent years deregulating our drinking water in North Carolina which has lead to dangerous chemicals like GenX being released into the water supply. Governor Cooper and the Brunswick County Commissioners have asked for 2.6 MILLION in emergency funding to combat the dangerous GenX chemicals that are present in the Cape Fear River. The experts are needed now to get to the bottom of the GenX problem. But so far, Sen. Micheal Lee and leaders in the legislature refuse, even as they sit on a state rainy day fund of $1.6 BILLION.
Now, in a recent letter, seven state senators, including Sen. Michael Lee (R-New Hanover), are challenging the governor’s request for $2.6 million for actions that include water quality monitoring and a study on the health effects of GenX.
Rather than reflecting the intense concern felt by residents about their drinking water, the group seems mainly concerned with why the state needs additional resources when it has — in their words — “accomplished and well-respected toxicologists that have been protecting North Carolinians for decades.”
Perhaps that question should be directed to the General Assembly itself.
The state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Department of Health and Human Services do indeed have “accomplished and well-respected toxicologists” and other staff charged with watching out for water quality. But DEQ’s staff has dwindled at an alarming rate since the General Assembly began chopping at the agency’s budget.
From 2010 to the end of 2016, budget cuts have forced DEQ to reduce water quality and water resources staff by 18 percent. That includes a 41 percent reduction in DEQ regional offices, where staff are on the front lines of quality assurance, making site visits for permit applications, providing technical assistance, and performing inspections.