Last week the republican-led Environmental Review Commission held a public meeting to make decisions on the GenX problem in the Cape Fear River. After over 3 hours of testimony the public was finally able to make comments, and the message was very clear: “stop playing politics with our water”. Governor Cooper requested a reasonable $2.6 million to tackle the problem but instead of action, the committee decided to do nothing and received groans from the crowd. How much longer will North Carolina have to wait for clean drinking water?
Republicans in the N.C. Senate say they’re not satisfied with Gov. Roy Cooper’s explanations of how his administration has handled revelations of a possibly carcinogenic chemical dumped into the Cape Fear River. They plan to hold hearings soon. Good. We need to know much more about the possible health threat to residents downriver who have been drinking tainted water for more than three decades. We hope the hearings will help.
But if they only concentrate on what the Cooper administration has done, they may become the realization of our worst fear about the issue: That it will be a legislative attempt to politicize yet another issue instead of solving it and protecting the state’s residents.
The Chemours plant on the Cape Fear River, a few miles south of Fayetteville, has acknowledged discharging a chemical called GenX, used in the production of Teflon, into the river. There are no established health standards for the chemical, although researchers say it’s likely to be cancer-causing. Chemours’ predecessor, DuPont, appears to have begun discharging GenX into the river at least 35 years ago. Chemours recently said it has stopped the flow into the river.
State environmental and health regulators are seeking $2.6 million from lawmakers to address the discharges and expand water quality and safety programs.
If our legislative leaders want to act on their constituents’ behalf, they’ll appropriate that money quickly and then use their hearings to determine how it is that industries are free to discharge unregulated but potentially harmful substances into state waterways that are also prime sources of drinking water for millions of people. As it is with GenX, such regulatory indifference has turned many of us into guinea pigs for cancer researchers. It’s good to see that at least some people are finally outraged by that.