Fishing for Facts – January 12, 2018
Playing Politics with Environmental and Community Health
In the first special legislative session of the North Carolina General Assembly in 2018, we were met with a familiar feeling of uncertainty and dismay.
The House, acting on recommendations from its Committee on River Water Quality, proposed and passed House Bill 189 to try to begin dealing with the crisis of chemical dumping and contamination in major waterways and drinking water sources in the state (e.g., GenX and Nafion contamination in the Cape Fear River upstream from Wilmington). The bill was an improvement from what was presented in the last River Water Quality meeting, because funding to the tune of $2.3 million was included which would help bolster the work of the Department of Environmental Quality in dealing with this issue. House Bill 189 is not a great bill but none less it is a start. Unfortunately, even before the House passed the bill, the Senate had gone home — meaning they were not there to consider the bill (and it looks like they will not be coming back for a vote).
While almost every member who spoke on the floor about this bill categorized it as a good start, there were some more puzzling remarks. On the floor of the House, Representative Pat McElraft, who represents Carteret and Jones counties, jumped to the defence of Chemours – a spinoff of chemical giant Dupont – which illegally, and potentially criminally, dumped GenX into the Cape Fear. With a straight face, she claimed “Chemours is serious about cleaning up the contamination. Don’t blame Chemours totally, maybe they made mistakes. They’re trying to do their best to do what’s right.”
This statement is flat out wrong. Chemours has done little to nothing to correct their years of wrongs, and the company’s officials have shown no remorse for contaminating our river, communities, and drinking water (GenX has also shown up in private wells near Fayetteville, where it was apparently deposited through the air from the Chemours site). It is shameful — but not shocking — to see Rep. McElraft once again choose to defend polluters over people which she has done exactly that throughout her years at the General Assembly.
Prior to the vote by the House, Senator Andy Wells issued a statement that shows how little he understands the issue. He continues to beat the drum that DEQ has enough money to monitor and protect our water (it doesn’t), and that this can all be fixed buy working with the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority in Wilmington instead of our state regulators. What he fails to understand, or chooses to ignore, is that industrial chemical contamination (often known as “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down) is not only a City of Wilmington problem. He fails to acknowledge that both Cumberland and Bladen counties have homes affected by GenX contamination. He fails to understand that forever chemicals have been found in many parts of the state. He fails to understand that this is not just a water issue but an air issue as well. All and all, Senator Wells just fails.
Not all hope is lost, I can assure you that your Neuse and Pamlico-Tar Riverkeepers and Riverkeepers across the state will continue to fight tooth and nail for clean water and healthy communities.
What we need from you is to stay vigilant when OUR elected officials come back to Raleigh. We will be sending emails and Action Alerts – please contact (call AND email) your elected officials. The interest of polluters should not be elevated over the interest of the public for a quick buck.
Remember you can find your elected officials here, http://www.ncleg.net/representation/WhoRepresentsMe.aspx.