Contact: Jamie Kritzer; Chris Mackey
Date: Aug. 8, 2017
Phone: 919-707-8602; 919-855-4840

DEQ, DHHS share budget request to protect water, ensure long-term monitoring, analysis and enforcement

Since 2013, DEQ has seen approximately 70 positions eliminated that once supported the permitting, compliance and enforcement programs.

RALEIGH – In response to the ongoing investigation into the compound GenX and drinking water in the Cape Fear region, Governor Cooper announced that the Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Health and Human Services would request critical funding to support additional scientists, engineers and health professionals to ensure water testing and protection statewide.

DEQ and DHHS have been in touch with the legislators from the affected counties and they received a letter from Secretary Mandy Cohen and Secretary Michael Regan earlier today outlining the details of the request. That letter can be read here.

“North Carolina families deserve to have confidence in their drinking water. We have deployed our experts to address the immediate concerns in the Lower Cape Fear region, but because of cuts over the last few years, long-term solutions will take more resources than our department currently has. It is critical that we have the engineers and environmental specialists necessary to put science first to protect our water,” said DEQ Secretary Michael Regan.

Since 2013, DEQ has seen approximately 70 positions eliminated that once supported the permitting, compliance and enforcement programs. DEQ is responsible for monitoring 38,000 miles of waterways.

“This legislation would allow DHHS to create a Water Health and Safety Unit to enhance our understanding of unregulated compounds and protect families’ drinking water,” said DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen.

The legislation contains appropriations to the state agencies as follows:

Water and public health; Department of Health and Human Services, $530,839

Resources to stand up a Water Health and Safety unit in the Division of Public Health that would include additional expertise specifically on water quality.

Medical risk assessor, a physician who has experience with poisoning and environmental toxicity;
PhD Toxicologist, to research and review available studies and formulate strategies to mitigate harmful health effects;
Informatics/ epidemiologist, to organize data and perform high-level analysis to arrive at causation of harm;
Health educator, to establish adequate public notifications and provide educational materials and briefings to the public.
Water quality monitoring, permitting; Department of Environmental Quality, $2,049,569

Funding for long-term water sampling for the presence of GenX by DEQ at a cost of $14,000 per week for a full year (currently the cost is being funded by the corporation and performed by the Environmental Protection Agency and private labs on a time-limited basis).
Staff for the Division of Water Resources: Already a backlog of wastewater permits exists, and the review time can take as long as two years. That’s too long for the public and industry. Adding experts would give us more thorough and timely review.
Four Engineers, three Environmental Specialists, two Environmental Senior Specialists, two Hydrogeologists, two Program Consultants, a Business Technology Analyst and two Chemist III to strengthen the Division of Water Resources so it can address unregulated compounds in the water discharge permitting program and allow more frequent sampling and faster evaluation.
These water quality scientists and experts like hydrogeologists and chemists would work with local governments to identify where contaminants occur and where they come from.
Move the permits from paper copies to an electronic database to integrate wastewater, drinking water and groundwater information and allow for easy searches.
The legislation would also direct the Environmental Review Commission to study whether there should be an exemption to the so-called “Hardison amendment” that prevents the state from enacting stricter standards than the federal government.

In the letter, Regan and Cohen ask legislators to authorize the request during the General Assembly’s September session.



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