Oppose House Bill 1005 / Senate Bill 779
Drinking water is not a partisan issue. Call your Representative and Senator now (look them up by county here, then click their name to view contact information), to ask them to oppose “Issuance of Advisories/Drinking Water Stds” bill!
View our factsheet on the bill.
Please call or email your state representative and state senator today!
Here’s what you need to know, and share with your Representative and Senator:
- For many years, state Health officials notified well owners about contamination, natural or man-made, found in any well test at a concentration high enough that the officials knew it could have short or long term health effects. State Health and environmental staff have researched and developed dozens of health-based “screening levels” in order to advise well owners, but these are advisory only (not enforceable).
- DEQ wants this bill to stop the entire health-based notification program and depend only on federal drinking water standards. Those standards, known as MCLs, exist for only about 60 of the hundreds of contaminants that have been documented in NC waters, and are often much weaker (less protective) than heath-based screening levels for the same contaminants.
- The bill would prevent health departments from issuing any health based notifications to public water customers, too! Sometimes pollution incidents happen involving a contaminant with no federal standard at all, threatening a public water supply, but this bill could keep the public or water customers from knowing.
This bill is about protecting water polluters of many kinds: coal ash dumps, chemical manufacturers, possible frackers, fuel storage, livestock operations and more.
Call your Representative and Senator now. Ask them to oppose HB1005 / SB779, the “Issuance of Advisories/Drinking Water Stds” bill. We ALL have the right to know what’s in our water!
By Jenn Weaver, Clean Water for NC
A new report by Food and Water Watch – “The State of Public Water in the United States” – affirms that public water is the most affordable, safe way of providing drinking water to communities. Eighty-seven percent of people in the U.S. with water service receive it from publicly-owned water utilities, and that number is growing. Private, for-profit corporations charge an average of 59% more per year than local governments do, leaving those private customers paying an extra $185/year more, on average, than customers of systems owned and operated by a local government. The good news? From 2007-2014 there was an 18% drop in the number of people served by private systems, and the total number of private systems fell by 7%.
Local governments have a basic responsibility to provide safe and affordable service, and if they don’t, the community can hold them accountable. On the other hand, customers of for-profit companies often have limited options to hold utilities accountable for bad service or unreasonable rates. Municipal or county systems are also more likely to incorporate conservation into their decision-making and rate-setting, whereas private companies seldom reward customers for using less water. After all, the more water used, the higher their profits.
One way in which the North Carolina experience is not consistent with this report is in the distribution of privately owned water and sewer systems. The reports say that in general, these systems are located in more affluent communities that are able to pay the higher private rates. In North Carolina, small, privately owned systems are scattered all over the state, frequently in rural areas where laying the lines to connect to a county or municipal system is cost-prohibitive. Some of these areas are affluent, while others are very modest-income rural neighborhoods and mobile home parks. There are numerous stories of customers in these communities being charged for low-quality water they can hardly afford.
The argument in favor of publicly owned water and sewer service is robust, yet local governments still struggle to have enough money to keep up with infrastructure needs without raising rates to an unaffordable level. Clean Water for NC stands with Food and Water Watch and other organizations to call for a dedicated source of federal funding to help local governments get the resources they need to provide safe, affordable service to their communities!
North Carolinians should be outraged at the recent stunt by the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), to reverse “do not drink” recommendations made by the same agencies last year to private well users near Duke Energy’s coal ash dumps. Initially, DHHS warned residents within 1500 feet of these dumps whose water had more than 0.07 parts per billion hexavalent chromium, a carcinogen when consumed or inhaled, not to drink their water. This non-regulatory ‘health screening level’ was determined after careful review of the latest scientific health risk information on hexavalent chromium (also known as Chromium-6) by public health professionals and state toxicologist Dr. Ken Rudo as presenting an ‘acceptable risk.’
Rudo himself acknowledged last year that for carcinogens like hexavalent chromium which act by changing DNA, “there really is no safe level of exposure.”
Residents like Larmie Short of Mooresboro just want water they know for sure is safe to drink.
Less than a year later, the state is sending the same households letters stating their water is now safe, and residents obviously have questions – what has changed? It’s not the water, and it’s not the science – in fact, to date, this announcement hasn’t been accompanied by any statements from qualified professionals in DHHS, all the more reason why communities suspect it is a strategic move by the state to shield Duke Energy from responsibility for providing safer drinking water to neighboring residents.
State Health Director Randall Williams and Assistant Secretary for the Environment Tom Reeder give two reasons for the sudden flip-flop on recommendations. First, they say, the EPA and other states in the southeast do not regulate hexavalent chromium in drinking water. And second, they have compared the hexavalent chromium values in well water to levels found in public water supplies and concluded “your well is as safe as the majority of public water systems in the country.” None of this is new information, and some of it is a major stretch of the facts, resulting in a distressing situation for residents who still live in fear of what contamination in their wells may be doing to their families’ health, unsure of who they can trust.
Dr. Anthony (“Tony”) Ingraffea is known internationally for his work on geologic fracturing and the failure of gas wells, leading to methane and other contamination in groundwater. He will present “Shale Gas/Oil: Latest Evidence on Leaky Wells and Methane Emissions, and Implications for Energy Policy” at UNC-Wilmington, NC State Univ, and East Carolina Univ. Visit frackfreenc.org for times and locations!