RALEIGH — Republican senators in the North Carolina General Assembly, including several from coastal counties, are questioning Gov. Roy Cooper’s recent request for $2.6 million for water quality monitoring and health studies related to the presence of the little-understood GenX compound in the Cape Fear River and the Wilmington area’s drinking water supply.
The senators suggest that Cooper’s actions on GenX are simply moves to improve public relations.
“While we review your administration’s request for a roughly $2.58 million additional appropriation, we also want to address recent news reports that have called attention to multiple inconsistencies in your administration’s handling of this crisis,” the letter states.
The senators want to know the answers to a series of questions, such as when the Cooper administration first discussed GenX in the Cape Fear River with Chemours, whether the Department of Environmental Quality knew about or approved the discharge of the chemical into the river and whether any other agencies or individuals in the administration received a federal subpoena like the one received by DEQ in July.
The senators also want to know why Cooper requested an investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation considering DEQ Secretary Michael Regan’s public comment that Chemours Co., the company behind the discharge and a subsidiary of DuPont, had not broken the law and questioned the need to create a science advisory board when the state already employs “accomplished and well-respected toxicologists.”
The senators also ask why the Cooper administration revised the safe level of GenX in drinking water from 70,909 parts per trillion to 140 parts per trillion and demand the scientific studies or reports that support the change.
Seven senators signed the letter released late Wednesday, including coastal legislators Sen. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort; Sen. Mike Lee, R-New Hanover; Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick; Sen. Norm Sanderson, R-Pamlico; and the co-chairs of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Natural, and Economic Resources, Sen. Rick Gunn, R-Alamance and Sen. Trudy Wade, R-Guilford.
Meanwhile in Wilmington, the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority announced Wednesday that it had authorized its director to execute contracts of up to $500,000 to remove about 48 million gallons of treated drinking water stored in the Peedee aquifer.
“Because the water was treated and stored while Chemours was still discharging GenX into the Cape Fear River, CFPUA has decided it is in the best interest of our customers to withdraw that water from the aquifer,” the authority said.
The authority said tests show that the water at an aquifer storage and recovery well was below the revised GenX health goal of 140 parts per trillion, but above the average levels in the water reaching customers.
“Because the water was treated and stored while Chemours was still discharging GenX into the Cape Fear River, CFPUA has decided it is in the best interest of our customers to withdraw that water from the aquifer,” according to the announcement.
The authority plans to start withdrawing the water in early September and discharge it to the wastewater system, which has an outfall in the river downstream of all drinking water intakes.
The $500,000 will cover an array of potential costs, including construction of a temporary connection pipe, materials, temporary easement and environmental testing.