• A closer look at the problem of contaminated drinking water wells in NC

    By: Lisa Sorg November 14, 2022 Under a special state fund 658 drinking water wells were sampled for contamination, many of them in Wake County Since 2007 state regulators have sampled more than 5,500 private wells for potential contamination under the Bernard Allen Memorial Emergency Drinking Water Fund, according to an annual report filed by the Department of Environmental Quality. The state legislature created the fund — named after a former Wake County state legislator — in 2006. The money can be used to pay to notify persons whose wells are at risk of contamination, to pay for the cost of testing, and to provide alternate drinking water supplies to affected residents. There is an income limit: Households must earn no more than 300% of the current federal poverty level. In 2022, that’s equivalent to an annual income of $83,000 for a family of four. In 2021, the General Assembly passed a law that eliminated the income requirements for residents with wells contaminated by PFAS. The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is working on guidelines related to this expansion of program eligibility, according to the annual report. The fund does have shortcomings. It does not cover naturally occurring contamination. For example, many drinking water wells in the North Carolina “slate belt” are contaminated with arsenic from the underlying rock. Those well owners have to find other funding, including out-of-pocket expenses, to treat their water. If they are connected to a public water supply, they could be required to pay a tie-in fee, which can run in the tens of thousands of dollars. Here’s a closer look at where the state has sampled and provided alternate water supplies. Figures are for July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022, unless otherwise noted. You can see county-by-county totals here. 345 – Total number of groundwater contamination sites where no responsible party can be identified and that have private drinking water wells nearby 205 – Number of those same sites with nearby contaminated drinking water wells 1,611 – Number of letters DEQ sent to property owners asking for permission to sample drinking water wells, fiscal year 2021-22* 658 – Of those, the number of drinking water wells that DEQ received permission to sample 152 – Number of sampled wells in Wake County, the most of any county 89 – Number sampled in Guilford County, which ranked second 37 – Number of counties in which wells were sampled 49 – Number of homes that received alternate water supplies from DEQ 12 – Number of homes that received bottled water as a temporary supply (including homes in Buncombe, Gaston, Guilford, Henderson, Mecklenburg, Orange and Wake counties) 4 – Number of homes where treatment systems were installed (Buncombe, Guilford, Wake) 1 – Number of homes connected to a public water service (Mecklenburg) $700,000 – State appropriations the fund received $300,000 – Amount that is dedicated to work associated with PFAS, or perfluorinated compounds *Fiscal year is July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022. Source: DEQ annual report to state legislature, dated Oct. 1, 2022. Read on NC Policy Watch And for more information, read our report, “Advancing Well User Protections Through Policy,” released on World Water Day this year highlighting the need to: 1.       Increase Funding, Scope & Accessibility of the Bernard Allen Fund, and 2.       Require Well Testing Prior to Real Estate Transactions


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  • Report shows contaminated groundwater is migrating toward Teer Quarry, site of Durham’s future water supply

    By: Lisa Sorg November 3, 2022 High levels of several toxic chemicals have been detected in groundwater near Teer Quarry, storage site for Durham’s future water supply, and are migrating toward the pit itself, state documents show. However, it is still uncertain if these compounds will reach the quarry, and if so, at what concentrations. The contaminant of greatest concern is 1,4-Dioxane, a likely carcinogen. It was found in more than half of the 26 groundwater monitoring wells at levels 3 to 50 times above the state’s target value for water supplies, according to a consultant’s report filed with the NC Department of Environmental Quality. Neither the EPA nor DEQ has set a legally enforceable maximum for 1,4-Dioxane, but state officials have recommended that raw water supplies, such as those stored in the quarry, contain no more than 0.35 parts per billion. The EPA announced yesterday that it would add 1,4-Dioxane to the latest list of contaminants that could be regulated within the next five years under the Safe Drinking Water Act. PFAS, or perfluorinated compounds, also widespread in drinking water supplies, including Durham’s, is also on the list 1,4-dioxane can be found in solvents, plastics production, industrial spills and discharges from municipal wastewater plants. Contaminated wastewater was used to make compost in Sampson County, Policy Watch previously reported.  The chemical is also found in many household products like laundry detergent, shampoos and cosmetics as a byproduct of manufacturing. Along with Jordan Lake, Teer Quarry is a potential new water resource for Durham.  A confluence of climate change and the city’s rapid growth – its population could double over the next 25 years – is forcing Durham to seek additional sources of drinking water. Currently, the city’s primary drinking water sources are Lake Michie and the Little River Reservoir. Durham also has agreements with Cary, Hillsborough, Chatham County and OWASA, in Orange County to buy and sell water. For 15 years, city officials have eyed the Teer Quarry as storage for water. Pending approval from DEQ, they are proposing to pump water from both Lake Michie and a segment of the Eno River and store it in Teer Quarry for future treatment and use. DEQ is holding a meeting tonight to add the designation “critical area” to part of the Eno River watershed’s classification to protect the area from further contamination. Durham construction mogul Nello Teer originally owned and operated the rock quarry, then sold it to Hanson Aggregates. Mining stopped in the late 1980s, and the city now owns the quarry. Hanson still operates a crushed stone sales yard onsite. At 200 feet deep, the quarry can hold 1.58 billion gallons, or nearly two months’ worth of water. Durham uses 28-to-30 million gallons of water per day, according to the city. There are two sources of the contamination on quarry property: underground storage tanks from an old gasoline station and spills from a former asphalt plant and NC Department of Transportation testing laboratory. Contamination levels and groundwater flows vary depending on the aquifer zones. Compounds in the groundwater in the intermediate and deep zones are “likely migrating toward the pit,” according to a Phase II Remedial Investigation Report commissioned by DEQ. The deep zone is the most likely area to discharge directly into the quarry pit. Five of six monitoring wells in the deep zone detected 1,4-Dioxane, at concentrations ranging from 3 to 20 times higher than DEQ’s target value, according to state records. Monitoring records since 2017 show that levels have gradually decreased but still far exceed target values. 1,4-Dioxane is often called a “forever chemical” because it does not quickly degrade in the environment. The Durham Environmental Affairs Board has not discussed the city’s proposal or contamination near the quarry. Juilee Malavade, the EAB chairperson, told Policy Watch in an email that the group had not yet been briefed on the issue. “We plan on inquiring regarding the environmental condition of the quarry,” Malavade said. Other contaminants include benzene and vinyl chloride, known to cause cancer; naphthalene, which the EPA has classified as a possible carcinogen; and bix(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, a probable carcinogen. DEQ has ranked the site as “high risk,” even though all of the nearby homes are now connected to public water supplies. In 2008, the consulting firm Highlands Environmental, working on behalf of Hanson Aggregates, asked DEQ to lower the site hazard ranking because no private drinking water wells were in use. DEQ declined to do so “when it was determined the quarry pit may be used as an emergency supply reservoir for the City of Durham water supply,” state documents read. Joe Lunne, spokesperson for the Durham’s Department of Water Management, told Policy Watch that 1,4-Dioxane has never been found in Teer Quarry water, which would be treated before it flowed from public taps. A DEQ memorandum related to Durham’s proposal recommends annual surface water monitoring of quarry water. Lunne of the Durham Water Management Department said the location of monitoring points “will depend, at least in some part” on where the intake would be installed in the quarry. Extreme weather, driven in part by climate change, has forced the city to re-examine its water options. Durham and the rest of North Carolina suffered from a historic drought in 2007. In August of that year, temperatures soared well above 100 degrees for several days, making it the second-warmest and second-driest August on record, according to the NC State Climate Office. As lakes and rivers dried up – Falls Lake looked like a moonscape – Durham at one point had just 38 days of water left in its reservoirs. The city supplemented it with water from Teer quarry. (Also in 2007, extreme winter weather halted progress toward cleaning up the quarry site. Two major snowstorms damaged the remediation system, which stopped operating and did not resume.) The USDA Forest Service in Raleigh issued a report in 2013 projecting that by 2060, the Upper Neuse River Watershed , which provides the water supply for Raleigh and Durham will to experience a 14% decrease in water yield while population growth will increase water demand by 21%. Meanwhile, more frequent droughts, floods and long periods of hot weather — all markers of climate change will alter the supply and demand for clean water. (Even during rainy stretches, the water can evaporate because of high temperatures.) If 1,4- Dioxane does reach the pit, levels could be diluted as long as the there is enough water to dilute it. The city also has a consultant “that will soon be studying treatment technologies” Lunne added, for the removal of 1,4-Dioxane and PFAS, or perfluorinated compounds. In 2018, high levels of two types of the compounds, PFOA and PFOS, were detected in Lake Michie, an existing drinking water supply; some of that water will also be stored in Teer Quarry. Traditional water treatment methods can’t remove PFAS or 1,4-Dioxane. PFAS and 1,4-Dioxane have been detected in both the Haw River and the Cape Fear River, as well as in drinking water in Pittsboro, Sanford, Fayetteville and Wilmington, according to DEQ data. Industrial dischargers and wastewater treatment plants are the likely sources. For 1,4-Dioxane, ultraviolet irradiation and hydrogen peroxide, coupled with granulated activated charcoal, is one potential treatment. Cost depends on several factors, including the amount of raw water to be treated and the level of contamination. Wilmington spent upward of $46 million to treat its drinking water for PFAS, which have been almost completely removed, and 1,4-Dioxane, whose levels have been reduced by two-thirds And unless federal or state grant money covers the expense, Durham water customers would likely have to pay for any such upgrades through higher rates. Read on NC Policy Watch


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  • After Long Delay, Groups Sue EPA for Response on Factory Farm Water Pollution Rules

    Food & Water Watch October 11, 2022 The Environmental Protection Agency’s failure to respond to a legal petition urging the agency to strengthen clean water rules governing factory farms has prompted a broad coalition of public interest and environmental justice organizations to file a lawsuit in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that aims to force EPA to finally issue a formal response. More than five years ago, over 30 groups – led by Food & Water Watch – filed a rulemaking petition detailing how EPA’s regulation of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) under the Clean Water Act has failed to protect waterways and communities, and urging the EPA to strengthen its lax approach. The agency’s complete failure to respond, the groups say, violates the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which requires agencies like EPA to respond to petitions “within a reasonable time.” The suit, filed Friday, argues that the current delay is unreasonable on its face, and that EPA’s inaction is unlawfully prolonging dangerous pollution and public health threats from factory farms. Most livestock in the U.S. are raised in CAFOs, which can confine thousands, or even millions, of animals and their waste. The vast quantities of manure generated from CAFOs are typically disposed of, untreated, on cropland, where it can seep or run off to pollute waterways and drinking water sources. The Clean Water Act defines CAFOs as “point sources” of pollution, which should require polluting CAFOs to follow discharge permits that restrict their pollution discharges into rivers and streams. But due to the EPA’s weak regulations, only a small fraction of CAFOs have the required permits. The permits that do exist are weak and inadequately protective of water quality. The agency’s failed approach has led to widespread factory farm pollution in waterways and communities across the country. The petition, filed in May 2017,  provided a roadmap for EPA to close loopholes that have enabled CAFOs to avoid regulation, and to make permits stronger and more effective. EPA’s failure to respond to the Petition, and in turn, strengthen its CAFO regulations, is just one of many examples of the Agency shirking its duty to protect communities from CAFO water pollution unless compelled by legal action. For instance, it was only due to a lawsuit filed by Food & Water Watch that the Ninth Circuit recently halted EPA’s illegal failure to require CAFOs monitor their discharges like other polluting industries. With this new legal action, Petitioners hope to once again pressure the Agency to fulfill its Clean Water Act obligations for CAFOs. “This petition provided EPA with a roadmap for how it must finally regulate factory farms as required under the Clean Water Act, and explained why action is critical. EPA’s refusal to even answer simply confirms that it will not hold this industry accountable without legal and public pressure. We will not let EPA continue to delay while factory farms pollute with impunity, endangering public health and fouling our rivers and streams across the country,” said Food & Water Watch Legal Director Tarah Heinzen. “Factory farm water pollution has had an increasingly devastating impact on marginalized communities throughout the country, and especially in North Carolina. Thousands of massive hog and poultry operations—of which only 1.1 percent are permitted—have taken root in low-income communities and communities of color, where they pollute the drinking water, ruin public waterways, and degrade the health and quality of life for those that have no choice but to live nearby. Meanwhile, the NC Department of Environmental Quality expects the polluters to regulate themselves! This is an extreme environmental injustice, and EPA is needed to take action to correct it,” said North Carolina Environmental Justice Network Director of Organizing and Policy Rañia Masri. “Iowa is in the midst of a water pollution crisis, thanks to thousands of unpermitted factory farms. EPA’s weak rules have completely let Iowa off the hook from even the most basic Clean Water Act regulation of these facilities. It’s no wonder Iowa has become a magnet for CAFO industry expansion,” said Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement member Julie Duhn. “In Wisconsin, CAFOs have to have Clean Water Act permits, but that hasn’t stopped the 17 industrial dairy CAFOs in my rural county from poisoning our community’s drinking water and decimating the wildlife in our local streams. EPA must grant this petition and strengthen its rules so that rural communities no longer have to shoulder the burden of unchecked factory farm pollution and live with the stress of not having safe drinking water in their homes,” said family farmer and Kewaunee CARES and Food & Water Watch member Nancy Utesch. Petitioners in the lawsuit include: Food & Water Watch, Center for Food Safety, Dakota Rural Action, Dodge County Concerned Citizens, the Environmental Integrity Project, Helping Others Maintain Environmental Standards, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Kewaunee CARES, Midwest Environmental Advocates, and North Carolina Environmental Justice Network. The 33 original petitioners include six national public interest advocacy organizations, and twenty-seven state and community-based organizations based in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Collectively, Petitioners represent millions of members and supporters from across the country. Read the article on Food & Water Watch


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  • Consumer Confidence Reports: Opportunities and Challenges for Small NC Water Systems

    Read the Report! Where does my drinking water come from? Is my water safe to drink? How is my water being treated? If you've ever found yourself asking these common drinking water questions, you're not alone! Drinking water customers have the right to know what is in the water they are consuming and where this water comes from. This founding principle spurred the passage of the federal Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) rule in the 1996 amendment to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Consumer Confidence Reports, or annual Water Quality Reports, provide consumers with an annual snapshot of the quality of their drinking water, while also providing important information on health risks, treatment methods and other educational materials. Overall, your utility's Annual Water Quality Reports are meant to help you  make informed decisions about the water you drink! But what happens when your drinking water provider lacks the capacity or know-how to produce effective, meaningful water quality reports for their customers? Our new report seeks to explore the challenges and opportunities that small NC water systems face when publishing their annual Consumer Confidence Reports. Read the Report! With the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently in the process of revising the CCR rules, we hope our findings provide a unique insight into not only how the NC Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ) can better assist small, struggling water systems, but how the new federal rules can also be accommodating to the tens of thousands of smaller drinking water providers across the nation. While our main focus is to provide recommendations to NC DEQ and EPA about helpful tools and resources that can assist small utilities with publishing effective CCRs, the general public may also find this report helpful in: ...understanding their rights as a drinking water customer under the federal SDWA ...how they can access their annual water quality reports ...how the EPA is working to ensure the new rules reflect a greater focus on equity and inclusion for the diverse populations of drinking water customers in the United States Our new report, "Consumer Confidence Reports: Challenges and Opportunities for Small NC Water Systems" is just one of many resources Clean Water for NC has published to help community members become better informed about the quality of their drinking water. Check out our resources list below for more tips and tricks to becoming an informed drinking water expert! YouTube Video: Understanding Your Drinking Water Utility's Consumer Confidence Report Fact Sheet: Annual Water Quality Reports Brochure: Types of Water Systems in North Carolina


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  • Chemours says it will offer alternative water to more GenX-affected households, but is vague about future

    By: Lisa Sorg, NC Policy Watch July 15, 2022 Chemours told the NC Department of Environmental Quality this week that it would offer replacement water supplies to more North Carolinians whose wells are contaminated with GenX, but was vague as to whether it would continue to do so if the company wins a federal court case. In a July 13 letter from Chemours plant manager Dawn Hughes to DEQ, she wrote that the company “reserves its rights to take appropriate actions …  based upon the results of the pending federal litigation, including in the event EPA’s Final Advisory is found to be invalid.” Chemours, which operates its Fayetteville Works plant near the Cumberland/Bladen county line, is responsible for contaminating public and private drinking water supplies in the Lower Cape Fear River Basin with GenX. An estimated 800,000 people who live in the basin have been affected. Exposure to GenX has been linked to myriad health problems: including reproductive problems, low birth weight, high cholesterol and several types of cancers. The new EPA toxicity assessment said the liver “is particularly sensitive” to the effects of GenX. As part of a 2019 consent order between DEQ, the company and Cape Fear River Watch, Chemours must offer alternative water supplies to private well owners whose water tests either  greater than 140 parts per trillion — the state’s health advisory goal at the time — or above EPA thresholds, even if they change. Last month, the EPA sharply reduced its goal to 10 ppt; it was originally 70 ppt. Chemours has challenged the EPA’s scientific basis for the new goal in a petition to a federal court. A health advisory goal is not legally enforceable, but it is among the steps toward a national drinking water standard, which is law. Nonetheless, the more stringent threshold legally forces Chemours to offer alternative water to more than 1,500 private well  owners in North Carolina whose drinking water contains levels of GenX between 10 ppt and 140 ppt. In her remarks to the Environmental Management Commission yesterday, Assistant Secretary for the Environment Sushma Masemore said 1,545 well owners could be eligible, based on Chemours estimates. That number has since been updated to 1,697 residences or other properties in Cumberland, Bladen, and Robeson counties. Policy Watch reported yesterday that the cost of installing, operating and maintaining these replacement water systems could cost Chemours $200 million, based on the maximum amount per customer, as laid out in the consent order. Regardless of the federal court’s decision, which could be months away, Assistant Secretary Masemore reiterated to Chemours that it must immediately begin complying with the updated health advisory goals. In a letter dated July 14, Masemore responded to Chemours: .. the Department wishes to make clear its position that the Consent Order is unequivocal in requiring Chemours to provide replacement drinking water supplies in the form of public water or whole building filtration systems to parties with private drinking water wells impacted by EPA’s new health advisory, which is now in effect and applicable. This requirement is of real and immediate importance to parties whose wells have been contaminated by pollution from the Fayetteville Works Facility. Affected parties must be assured that the replacement drinking water supply provisions in the Consent Order will be fully and timely implemented.” Chemours itemized to DEQ the status of replacement systems. This does not include households downstream, such as in New Hanover and Brunswick counties, who are connected to public systems. 885 have reverse osmosis systems that were installed by Chemours and are operating; 124 already have public water connections, including 84 that were connected by Chemours to public water systems, and are receiving public water; 108 are under consideration for public water connections and in the interim are receiving bottled water or have reverse osmosis systems already installed; 3 have had new deeper wells constructed by Chemours, producing water tested to have below 10 ppt for HFPO-DA; 5 (all non-residential properties) have granulated activated carbon (“GAC”) systems that were installed by Chemours and are operating; 4 of the wells are no longer in use; 519 have not accepted Chemours’s offer for reverse osmosis systems and are receiving bottled water deliveries or vouchers; and 49 have declined Chemours’s offer for reverse osmosis systems, and are not currently receiving replacement drinking water. There are an additional seven wells in New Hanover County whose owners have been provided with bottled water deliveries or vouchers. DEQ is hosting a public meeting on Tuesday, July 26 about the impacts of the new EPA goals on private well owners. The meeting will be held at the Crown Theatre, 1960 Coliseum Drive in Fayetteville, at 6 p.m. Read the article on NC Policy Watch


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  • EPA warns toxic ‘forever chemicals’ more dangerous than once thought

    By: Gino Grandoni, The Washington Post June 15, 2022 The Environmental Protection Agency warned Wednesday that a group of human-made chemicals found in the drinking water, cosmetics and food packaging used by millions of Americans poses a greater danger to human health than regulators previously thought. The new health advisories for a ubiquitous class of compounds known as polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, underscore the risk facing dozens of communities across the country. Linked to infertility, thyroid problems and several types of cancer, these “forever chemicals” can persist in the environment for years without breaking down. “People on the front-lines of PFAS contamination have suffered for far too long,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement. “That’s why EPA is taking aggressive action.” The guidance aims to prompt local officials to install water filters or at least notify residents of contamination. But for now, the federal government does not regulate the chemicals. Health advocates have called on the Biden administration to act more quickly to address what officials from both parties describe as a contamination crisis that has touched every state. “Today’s announcement should set off alarm bells for consumers and regulators,” said Melanie Benesh, legislative attorney at the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization. “These proposed advisory levels demonstrate that we must move much faster to dramatically reduce exposures to these toxic chemicals.” Since the 1940s, chemical makers have used the highly durable compounds to make nonstick cookware, moisture-repellent fabrics and flame-retardant equipment. But that same toughness against water and fire, which made the chemicals profitable, allowed them to accumulate in nature and build up in the body — with long-term health effects. The sun sets behind the control tower of the former Loring Air Force Base on July 18, 2020, in Limestone, Maine, where the Air Force plans to test for contamination by “forever chemicals.” (David Sharp/AP) Agency officials assessed two of the most common ones, known as PFOA and PFOS, in recent human health studies and announced Wednesday that lifetime exposure at staggeringly low levels of 0.004 and 0.02 parts per trillion, respectively, can compromise the immune and cardiovascular systems and are linked to decreased birth weights. Those drinking-water concentrations represent “really sharp reductions” from previous health advisories set at 70 parts per trillion in 2016, said Erik Olson, a senior strategic director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group. The announcement, he added, sends “an important signal to get this stuff out of our drinking water.” More significantly, the EPA is preparing to propose mandatory standards for the two chemicals this fall. Once finalized, water utilities will face penalties if they neglect to meet them. The advisories will remain in place until the rule comes out. The EPA also said Wednesday that it is offering $1 billion in grants to states and tribes through the bipartisan infrastructure law to address drinking-water contamination. The advisories’ levels are so low that they are difficult to detect with today’s technology. Some lawmakers, including Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement that this meant the new guidance is impractical. “EPA’s announcement will only increase confusion for water systems’ compliance efforts and further complicate risk communication to the public,” she said. The American Chemistry Council, the chemical industry’s main trade group, said in a statement that it supports developing enforceable standards for these long-lasting compounds. But it faulted the EPA for issuing the advisories before outside experts on the agency’s Science Advisory Board had finished reviewing the underlying research, suggesting the process is “fundamentally flawed.” “Rather than wait for the outcome of this peer review, EPA has announced new Advisories that are 3,000 to 17,000 times lower than those released by the Obama Administration in 2016,” it said. Already in the United States, manufacturers have largely replaced PFOA and PFOS with other fluorinated compounds. The EPA determined that two of those alternatives — dubbed GenX and PFBS — also are dangerous to ingest even at relatively low levels, according to a review of recent research on mice. Among the communities hit hardest with contamination are those near military bases, where PFAS-laden foams were used for decades to fight jet-fuel fires. Many residents in Oscoda, Mich., for instance, have heeded warnings from state health officials and stopped drinking untreated well water and eating deer hunted near the now-shuttered Wurtsmith Air Force Base. “There still is no plan in place for the cleanup,” said Anthony Spaniola, an attorney and co-chair of the Great Lakes PFAS Action Network whose family has a lakeside home in Oscoda. “The Department of Defense, quite frankly, has mismanaged this site, bordering on reckless.” Spaniola hopes the new health advisories mean the military will “change the scope of what they need to clean up.” In North Carolina, Emily Donovan’s family of four started carrying around bottled water and installed a filter under their sink after PFAS were discovered in and around Cape Fear River. Instead of asking parents to donate cookies and cupcakes, schools request bottles of water for dances and other events. “It’s a layer of stress that we all live with now,” said Donovan, now an activist who co-founded Clean Cape Fear and is on the leadership team of the National PFAS Contamination Coalition. “You’re constantly wondering,” she added, “is there something inside of me? Is there something inside of my children?” Regan, who served as North Carolina’s top environmental official before joining the EPA, ordered the chemical company Chemours to stop the compounds from trickling into the river. On Wednesday, the company took issue with the analysis the EPA used to craft its latest guidance. “We are already using state-of-the-art technologies at our sites to abate emissions and remediate historical releases,” Chemours said in a statement. “We are evaluating our next steps, including potential legal action, to address the EPA’s scientifically unsound action.” While the agency is planning to regulate two PFAS, thousands of distinct compounds have been discovered. Many health advocates say federal regulators need to crack down on the compounds as a group. “We can’t continue this whack-a-mole approach to regulating them,” Olson said. “We’ll never be finished in anyone’s lifetime.” Radhika Fox, who heads the Office of Water at the EPA, said the agency is considering more sweeping regulations of the class of compounds. “We are exploring options to propose a rule that is for groups, not just PFOA and PFOS,” she told reporters Tuesday in a Zoom call. Read the article on The Washington Post


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  • NC leaders plan to test for lead and asbestos in drinking water at schools

    By: Lora Lavigne, WRAL May 5, 2022 Experts say lead or asbestos contamination in drinking water at public schools could be making your child sick. The state’s top education leaders will meet Wednesday to discuss what action is needed. The North Carolina Board of Education will assess how high the risk for lead exposure is and how much should be spent to minimize the exposure. When the school board gathers Wednesday, leaders will refine a policy to take further action on testing and discuss what the cost will be to execute that plan. The plan will be solely focused on eliminating or minimizing…


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  • Contaminated wells prompt NC county to seek state grant

    By: Ben Sessoms, Common Dreams April 19, 2022 The Gray’s Creek community in Cumberland County could receive federal funding to help address the GenX contamination of some residential wells. The county Board of Commissioners unanimously agreed Monday to apply for North Carolina’s drinking water reserve and wastewater reserve grant. The grant, which has two rounds of funding in the spring and fall, is financed through federal allocations to the state as part of the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA. The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality will administer the funds and determine which applicants are awarded grant money. If accepted, the county could receive up to $15 million to fund construction of a new central water distribution system in the Gray’s Creek area in southern Cumberland County, according to county documents. The state’s grant is meant for at-risk water systems for which, among other purposes, the applicant’s intention is to connect residences in disadvantaged, underserved communities to a different water system. According to water sampling from DEQ, some residential wells in Gray’s Creek are contaminated with GenX, a chemical substance produced in the nearby Chemours plant. GenX is a trade name for one unregulated per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance, or PFAS, used in manufacturing nonstick coatings, among other purposes, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. Last month, Cumberland County filed a lawsuit against Chemours and its predecessor company, DuPont, for allegedly releasing millions of pounds of PFAS into the air above its Fayetteville Works facility in the decades following 1970, as reported by Carolina Public Press. To determine how GenX affects the human body, more studies need to be done, according to DHHS. A small, limited study from the state agency suggests the substance, which DuPont started producing in 2009, may leave the human body quickly. Previously, the county had allocated $10.5 million for providing an alternative water system for Gray’s Creek. A pending contract is in place with the Fayetteville Public Works Commission, but the board has not yet finalized and approved that agreement. The county has until May 2 to apply for the state grant. If DEQ doesn’t accept Cumberland County’s application, the department will automatically consider the application for the next round of funding in the fall. The state could grant a low-interest loan to supplement funding if Cumberland County accepts, according to DEQ. If funding is still available after both application rounds, DEQ will give more to accepted applicants in $5 million increments until all the money is exhausted. DEQ will reward applicants in increments in order of priority, which the agency will determine. Read the article on Common Dreams


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  • REPORT: “Advancing Well User Protections Through Policy”

    Clean Water for NC is celebrating World Water Day this year with the release of our new report "Advancing Well User Protections Through Policy"! Read Our Report!   This year's theme for International World Water Day 2022 is Groundwater: Making the Invisible Visible. Acknowledging the importance of groundwater and the services it provides to individuals across the globe is essential to developing protective well user protection policies, including policies for North Carolina's nearly 3 million private well users! With assistance from NC Well Water Working Group members, UNC's Superfund Research Program, NC Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ) and NC Department of Health and Human Service (NC DHHS) officials, we outlined the case for two well user protection proposals: 1. Increase Funding, Scope & Accessibility of the Bernard Allen Fund 2. Require Well Testing Prior to Real Estate Transactions We hope you find this report insightful and inspiring. Our team looks forward to continuing to develop these policy recommendations before introducing them to some "legislative champions" in Raleigh! Did you know that North Carolina has the second largest population of private well users in the U.S.? Not only that, but there are no federal protections for these individuals - it is complete up to private well users to ensure the safety of their drinking water. What can you do to advocate for well user protections in your own community? Reach out to your state representatives and urge them to support policies that promote safe drinking water protections for North Carolina well users Visit our Well User Protection page to learn more about your county's well program. (Your county's Environmental Health Director is your local resource for everything "wells" - they are there to assist you!) Connect with Clean Water for NC staff about any questions or concerns you have about your private well


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  • Celebrating 50 Years of the Clean Water Act

    This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, our nation's landmark water protection legislation that aims to maintain healthy surface waters, ensure the health of ecological resources, protect human health, and restore impaired waters. It provides all individuals within the United States the right to waterways that are clean, biologically intact, and safe for use. Federal authority for enforcement lies with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which gives states and tribes the tools and guidance necessary to protect and maintain healthy waterways in cooperation with federal government agencies. This cornerstone legislation was signed into law by President Nixon on October 18, 1972, with the main goals of restoring and maintaining "the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s water,” eliminate pollutant discharges and provide for the “protection and propagation of fish, shellfish, and wildlife” and “recreation in and on the water.” President Nixon signs the Clean Water Act into Law, October 18th 1972. Source: Science History Institute “The Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 — the modern Clean Water Act — established a national commitment to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters. The Clean Water Act has been instrumental in improving the health of rivers, lakes, and coastal waters. It has stopped billions of pounds of pollution from fouling the water, and dramatically increased the number of waterways that are safe for swimming and fishing.” Learn more about the history of the Clean Water Act: “A Brief History of the Clean Water Act”, from PBS’s NOW Robust protection of our nation's surface waters came under act attack in 2020 when the Trump administration dramatically reduced the amount of U.S. waterways receiving federal protection under the Clean Water Act in a bid to comply with industry interests and fast-track oil and gas pipelines. Of the many changes introduced by Trump's EPA, perhaps the biggest and most contentious was the controversial move to roll back federal pollution limits in wetlands and smaller waterways. All together, Trump gutted protections for 25% of surface waters in the country. The tides changed once again in 2021 when newly elected President Joe Biden announced his plans to undo the Trump-era rule and restore protections to streams and wetlands. While we await a formal rule proposal by the Biden administration, the 2015 Obama-era "Clean Water Rule" has been reinstated in the interim. This law provides a blanket definition of "Waters of the United States" (WOTUS), allowing protections to approximately 60% of America's surface waters. Wetlands in North Carolina. Source: Department of Environmental Quality We love clean water and know you do, too! Keep up-to-date with all our work with communities to protect and restore North Carolina's beautiful water resources. Sign up today to receive our newest edition of Clean Currents to learn about our Water Justice & Polluter Accountability programs, membership & volunteer opportunities, and how YOU can become a clean water advocate in your own community. Sign up to receive our quarterly Clean Currents Newsletter! Our NC Department of Environmental Quality's Division of Water Resources is responsible for ensuring safe drinking water in accordance with the Clean Water Act. The Division issues pollution control permits, monitors permit compliance, and carries out enforcement actions for violations of environmental regulations. Help protect the waters of North Carolina by getting informed and getting involved! Sign up to receive Division of Water Resources Press releases. Information on meetings regarding rulemakings, surface water quality standards, and committee meetings Sign up to receive information on draft permits for a proposed industry. Public notices straight to your inbox about opportunities to speak out and how to provide comments to the Division  Check out River Network's comprehensive Clean Water Act overview for community manuals, toolkits, and much more!


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