General Assembly overrides veto of GenX funding

Eamon Queeney—North State Journal
Speaker Tim Moore gavels the end of the North Carolina General Assembly's House of Representatives' afternoon session at the Legislative Building in Raleigh

RALEIGH – On Wednesday, The N.C. House and the N.C. Senate voted to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of House Bill 56, a measure that sends $435,000 to local authorities charged with testing and treating the Cape Fear River for the chemical compound GenX.   The fluorinated chemical has been released by the Chemours Fayetteville Works plant for the past 37 years as a by-product of producing non-stick coatings.  Some of the money will go to the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority which is running a pilot test that, so far, appears to clear the water of GenX.

“Providing immediate resources for water treatment facilities and researchers in Southeastern North Carolina was an important step to protect the people of the Cape Fear region,” said House Speaker Tim Moore.

“We will continue to hold hearings in the House Select Committee on North Carolina River Quality to investigate the GenX contamination and develop solutions that ensure administrative accountability and clean drinking water for our citizens.”

CFPUA is directed in the bill to coordinate with the Pender and Brunswick County utilities for ongoing monitoring, withdrawal, treatment of the Cape Fear. The University of North Carolina at Wilmington receives the rest of the money for water testing and studying the long term health effects of GenX, which have not yet been determined.  The Centers for Disease Control are currently studying GenX, but similar compounds have shown links to cancer.

The bill also launches an electronic filing database for chemical discharge permits.  Among the controversies in the issue is that Chemours had a federal consent order to discharge GenX but it did not appear on the state permit. Lawmakers want the new electronic system to keep better track of permits and chemical discharge.

Cooper vetoed the bill in September saying that he didn’t think it allotted enough money and he opposed where the money went. Instead of local authorities, He called for $2.6 million to go to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Environmental Quality for research. Outcry over the discovery of GenX in the Cape Fear has been a focus of meetings and concern for months in New Hanover County and other areas along N.C. coast, which rely on the Cape Fear for drinking water.

“It’s a shame that families in the lower Cape Fear region had to wait this long for a solution because of the governor’s veto, but we are pleased our Senate colleagues ended the delay and helped make this local solution that will actually help clean our drinking water a reality,” said Sens. Michael Lee (R-New Hanover) and Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick.)

The legislature is back in session this week to address this veto and two others, all listed on the day’s legislative calendar.