Support us

DonateNow Clean Water for North Carolina is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Upcoming Events

Oct. 23, 6PM, Asheville: Community Bill of Rights: Public Comment. Hosted by Community Roots. Kenilworth Center, 123 Chiles Ave.

Oct. 27, 6PM, Asheville: Community Bill of Rights: Public Comment. Hosted by Community Roots. Jubilee Community, 101 Patton Ave.

Nov. 3-4, Asheville: Democracy School – CELDF. Hosted by Community Roots. Scholarships available. Click here for more information.

Nov. 15, 6pm, Garysburg: DEQ Public Hearing on Air Permit for ACP Northampton County Compressor Station. Garysburg Town Hall, 504 Old Highway Road. Click here for details.

GenX, Chemours, and Protecting NC's Drinking Water Supplies

Gen X

Graphic from “The Intercept,” 2016.

Dozens of articles have been written in recent weeks about the discovery of alarming levels of an unregulated contaminant called “GenX” in the Cape Fear River and in the water supply for a quarter of a million North Carolinians downstream. This situation exemplifies the scale of the drinking water crises our state will face in the future, and the need for concerned residents to stand up for better protections at a state and federal level to safeguard our drinking water.

Clean Water for North Carolina hopes you will join us as we continue to push for:

  1. Updates to drinking water standards: GenX is one of dozens of ’emerging contaminants’ that are totally unregulated in tap water. In 1996, amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act authorized the Environmental Protection Agency to require monitoring of unregulated contaminants, but thanks to industry pushback, to date, zero new federal standards have been implemented. As new substances continue to be developed, regulators must establish standards so tap water doesn’t poison communities. We also need fully-funded federal and state agencies to set and enforce these standards!
  2. Health-based notifications of risks: Residents deserve simple, evidence-based advisories when a particular substance is discovered in their water – whether or not it exceeds a regulatory threshold. When a controversial contaminant found in well water near Duke Energy’s coal ash sites led the McCrory administration to back away from health-based warnings last year, CWFNC started fighting to make sure county and state health officials retain the authority to advise folks about the risks of drinking their water based on a 1 in 1 million lifetime risk of developing cancer.
  3. Transparency of water utilities: The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority’s decision not to reveal contamination to the public right away after the results of a study found GenX in the drinking water has been questioned, and the utility is responding to public pressure to improve future transparency with proposals for a new website, faster public notification and quicker escalation of unusual testing data of drinking water. Transparency is a core value in our work for clean, safe water for all, and a key reason why we support public, locally-controlled drinking water and oppose privatization.
  4. Accountability for polluters who put their own bottom line ahead of human health: We’re appalled that after DuPont was fined more than ten million dollars by the EPA in 2005 for covering up the health effects of C8, they turned around and developed a replacement chemical without thoroughly vetting it. CWFNC advocates the use of the precautionary principle, calling for the polluter to bear the burden of proof that an activity is safe (in this case, DuPont and their spinoff company, Chemours). The use of GenX is an extraordinary failure to follow this principle, and Chemours should be held fully accountable. So should EPA, for agreeing to allow the use of GenX in the first place and allowing Chemours to prevent only 99% – not 100% – of the contaminants from entering the Cape Fear.

Summaries of what we know:
Toxic tap water FAQs (updated daily, Star News Online)
State: GenX No Longer Discharged Into River (Coastal Review, 2017)
Forum on GenX in Local Water Draws 450 People (Star News, 2017)

Perfluorinated chemicals and health:
Chronic exposure limit set for PFOA in drinking water: EPA addresses persistent legacy chemicals linked to health problems. (Chemical & Engineering News, 2016)
A CHEMICAL SHELL GAME: How DuPont Concealed the Dangers of the New Teflon Toxin. (The Intercept, 2016)

Filtration and alternate water supplies:
GenX Contamination In Drinking Water: What You Need To Know (Hydroviv, 2017). Our note: this article is informative, but is published on a filtration company’s website with the goal of selling filters. We are not promoting this or any other brand of filtration system.
No guarantees with bottled water (Letter to the Editor, Wilmington Star News, June 2017)

Agency responses:
GenX disaster: More compelling evidence that incessant GOP budget cuts endanger our well-being (NC Policy Watch, June 2017)
DEQ home page on Gen X investigation (Department of Environmental Quality, 2017)
NC DHHS Health Effects Summary (NC DHHS, June 2017)

Privatization of Water/Wastewater Infrastructure is Not a Solution for Small and Rural Communities

Rural communities often lack access to reliable water and wastewater infrastructure

  • Drinking water in these areas primarily comes from unregulated private wells.
  • Rural utilities must maintain more miles of service lines, with fewer customers to share the costs. These challenges often lead to degraded infrastructure and financial trouble.
  • NC is more rural than the national average, with a higher percentage of well users. There are also numerous community wells regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. NC attempted to address rural water challenges by incentivizing acquisition of small, aging groundwater systems by investor-owned utilities – primarily Aqua North Carolina and Utilities Inc.

The acquisition of small, rural systems by corporate utilities has increased disparities, injustices for rural residents

  • Disproportionate cost impacts: NC regulators allow costs to be spread equally over all of a company’s ratepayers. Poverty affects rural counties at a higher rate than urban counties in NC, causing concerns about affordability of increased rates, but the repairs and new projects that these increases cover are disproportionately concentrated in wealthier and more urban areas.
    • From 2013-2016, Aqua North Carolina charged its statewide customers $6.7 million for filters to fix discolored water; almost 80% of these filters were installed in urban counties.

Responsiveness to service problems

  • Large, corporate utilities typically save on expenses by maintaining only minimal staff, keeping them from responding quickly to service problems in remote areas. Aqua NC operates more than 1600 community wells and 60 wastewater treatment systems in 50+ NC counties, yet they only have 160 NC employees.
    • Residents in rural Henderson County have experienced frequent water line breaks which often take days to address because the nearest company technician is based 2 hours away in Gaston County.
    • Inspections by state water quality regulators may be less frequent in remote areas.

A true solution for rural areas will require local, state, and public federal funding and resources for small communities

  • The WATER Act would be a first step, providing funding for technical assistance to help rural and small municipalities improve their water and wastewater systems, and assistance to rural households for septic fields and private drinking water wells. Read it here.
  • Please contact your member of Congress and ask them to support H.R. 1673, The WATER Act (Water, Affordability, Transparency, Equity, and Reliability Act of 2017). Find your member of Congress by looking it up by zip code at this link.

 

Water provided by private utility Aqua NC in a rural community near Gastonia, North Carolina, discolored by iron. Although meeting all legal guidelines, the water is undrinkable.

 

Hog farms: call today, YOUR Rep's vote could make a difference

NC should protect the rights of people, not industrial hog farmers

Thanks to YOUR calls and e-mails, on May 5th, Governor Cooper vetoed House Bill 467, the bill that would limit the ability of communities near hog farms to seek compensation for health effects, nuisance odors, loss of income and other impacts. The Governor acknowledged that nuisance laws can be important for protecting private property rights.

The NC House plans to vote today at 3PM on whether to override Governor Cooper’s veto of House Bill 467, the bill that would limit the ability of communities near hog farms to seek compensation for health effects, nuisance odors, loss of income and other impacts. The NC Senate will have a chance to vote, too. It will be a close vote, and a call to YOUR Representative and Senator could make all the difference. Ask them to vote “no” to the resolution to override the veto, and protect people, not industry!

To find the contact info for legislators for your area, go to tinyurl.com/ncreps17 and scroll down to enter your county. Click on the legislator’s name to view their phone number and e-mail address. You can look up how your Representative voted on the original bill here and how your Senator voted here.

Oppose H467

Impacted residents near hog operations lobby in Raleigh last month.

ASK Governor Cooper to VETO House Bill 467, Call 919-814-2000!

House Bill 467 is a terrible injustice to NC residents living near Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and a frightening precedent for what other industries could do. This bill would hurt residents in NC living near CAFOs that want to sue Smithfield’s Hog Production Division due to the pollution caused by Smithfield’s hogs. Future lawsuits would have a cap on compensation that could be awarded to residents from a corporate pork producer making record profits ($1.7 billion in 2016).

Property Owner Rights: CAFOs produce waste which can contaminate ground water, as well as become a nuisance to residents living nearby who have to live with the stench. This bill eliminates compensation even when these impacts are proven in court. This bill would also reduce options for homeowners to protect themselves when CAFOs unreasonably interfere with their use of their property.

Environmental Justice Issues: Most CAFOs are located in low-income areas or communities of color (e.g., Duplin County, NC). These communities disproportionately suffer from the pollution caused by these operations. By taking away available legal remedies, this bill is especially harmful to these vulnerable populations. CAFOs also impact property values nearby, and threaten drinking water wells.

Special thanks to Christine Ellis of the Winyah Rivers Foundation for information on this harmful bill.