Senate passes GenX funding bill

Legislation aims to use all available resources to identify chemical and clean up tainted water

Madeline Gray—North State Journal
The North Carolina General Assembly is scheduled to reconvene in May

RALEIGH — Last week the N.C. Senate passed a bill that directs the state to tap into a network of scientific resources with the UNC system for investigating water quality and implications of the GenX contamination of the Cape Fear River, discovered this summer.

Sens. Michael Lee (R-New Hanover), Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick), Wesley Meredith (R-Cumberland), Trudy Wade (R-Guilford) and Andy Wells (R-Catawba) introduced the measure, which highlights, among other things, the availability of mass spectrometers within the state, as opposed to buying one, which was funded in a N.C. House version of the bill.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) office at Research Triangle Park, just outside of the state capital, has already offered the state access to a mass spectrometer and analysis at no cost.

The bill also provides $2.4 million for the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and dedicates $2 million already in the budget of a policy research program at UNC Chapel Hill to carry out its provisions.

The bill also requires agencies like the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services to link up with the federal Centers for Disease Control and the UNC system to set health goals for GenX and similar chemicals. It also requires that the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality coordinate with peer agencies in neighboring states, West Virginia and Georgia about contaminants in surface and ground water.

“Water quality is not a political issue — it is a public health issue, and a deeply personal issue to me,” said Lee. “The health of my constituents in southeast North Carolina, neighbors and family depend on what we do, and I am pleased this bill will leverage the expertise of our university system’s world-renowned scientists and utilize state-of-the-art equipment that already belongs to our taxpayers to research ways to improve and protect our drinking water.”

The bill is the second such measure intended to help address the GenX crisis in the eastern part of the state. In the fall, the General Assembly passed a bill that send funds to UNC Wilmington and the Cape Fear Public Utilities Authority to study the effects of GenX and to help study how to filter it out of the water supply.

“This legislation provides another incremental step forward as we continue to search for answers as to how GenX has been in our water supply for over 35 years and why we continue to hear there are further discharges of GenX and other compounds with no enforcement action on the part of DEQ,” Lee added.

The General Assembly adjourned a special session on Tuesday and is scheduled to officially convene for the long session in May.