Raleigh – Sens. Lee, Meredith, and Berger skipped town last week without even taking up a GenX bill that was a needed (yet incomplete) first step to protecting our state’s drinking water. Vulnerable GOP senators Lee and Meredith represent two of the areas hardest hit – yet when it came time for them to stand up for their constituents, they laid down without even a word explaining why. The inaction from Sens. Lee, Meredith, and Berger on a pressing public health issue is unacceptable, and shows why breaking the supermajority this November is crucial to protecting our state’s water quality and public health.
“Senators Lee and Meredith left Raleigh without a GenX fix and turned their backs on their constituents,” NCDP Executive Director Kimberly Reynolds said. “If they won’t stand up for the people of southeast North Carolina on something this necessary, it’s time for voters to bring in new leadership who will.”
Key Excerpt: “Why doesn’t Berger feel a sense of urgency about this? Why are senators from this region backing his position? And for that matter, where has state Sen. Wesley Meredith of Fayetteville been? Reporters and local officials who attended a crowded public forum on the GenX problem last month say they didn’t see Meredith there. And he’s made no public statements. Why the silence?”
Fayetteville Observer: Senate leader ignores widening GenX threat
By the Editorial Board
January 13, 2018
Phil Berger is either breathtakingly ill-informed about the pollution problems threatening residents of the Cape Fear River Basin or he just doesn’t care that residents’ health is imperiled by pollutants that are likely to cause cancer. There isn’t much gray area between those possibilities to explain why the state Senate leader shut down a House bill last week that would have ramped up state efforts to track and study GenX and other chemicals that have leaked, flown or been dumped from the Chemours plant on the Cumberland-Bladen county line.
The legislation that would have added $2.3 million to fund the state’s response to GenX pollution and other water quality issues passed the House unanimously on Wednesday. But Berger quickly called it a do-nothing measure that “unfortunately does nothing to prevent GenX from going into the water supply.” Berger said the time to talk about appropriating money is when testing that was ordered last summer is completed.
In saying that, Berger sidesteps reality. Last summer, it was believed that the GenX issue primarily affected residents in the Wilmington area whose water appears to have been contaminated by GenX and other related chemical compounds for at least several decades. Since then, state regulators have discovered that GenX and other “perfluorinated” compounds haven’t been confined to the wastes that Chemours — and DuPont before it — have dumped into the river. The chemicals also have leaked into the water table and become airborne, leaving the plant premises on wind currents. Public and private wells in the plant’s vicinity have been found polluted with GenX, and every time the testing radius around the plant is expanded, more of it is found. Just last week, one Bladen County private well was tested and found to have a GenX level of 4,000 parts per trillion, more than 28 times the state’s provisional health goal.
Yet Berger, ever the champion of deregulation, chooses not to go there. He shows little interest in accelerating efforts to deal with this serious health threat that affects hundreds of thousands of North Carolina residents. And based on reports of other perfluorinated chemicals recently found in Jordan Lake, it’s possible that we’re talking about protecting the health of millions of state residents. Why doesn’t Berger feel a sense of urgency about this? Why are senators from this region backing his position? And for that matter, where has state Sen. Wesley Meredith of Fayetteville been? Reporters and local officials who attended a crowded public forum on the GenX problem last month say they didn’t see Meredith there. And he’s made no public statements. Why the silence?
This is a serious problem. Cumberland County and the Fayetteville Public Works Commission are working on what will be a multimillion-dollar project to extend water mains to the Gray’s Creek areas affected by the pollution. Bladen County is facing some expensive solutions as well.
And all of this is evidence that years of gutting DEQ staff has resulted in a regulatory failure that allowed DuPont and Chemours to dump dangerous chemicals into the river and the water table around the Fayetteville Works for decades. The people affected by all this feel a great sense of urgency — and fear. Why doesn’t Phil Berger?