New well water testing bill follows WNCN investigation

File photo of water contamination sites
RALEIGH, N.C. – A new bill emphasizing the importance of testing private water wells was introduced in the North Carolina House of Representatives on Wednesday as a result of WNCN’s multi-part investigation “Poison in the Water.”
The Private Well Water Education Act (H.B. 396) was introduced by state representatives Rick Catlin (R-New Hanover), Tim Moffitt (R-Buncombe), Chris Millis (R-Pender) and Mark Hollo (R-Alexander) at the request of N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary John Skvarla.There are existing federal and state laws governing public wells but that’s not the case for private wells. The Private Well Water Education Act directs the Commission for Public Health to adopt rules governing the testing of private wells and the reporting of their results.

If passed, well owners across the state would see changes.

The bill requires local health departments to provide information to citizens constructing new drinking water wells regarding drinking water standards and the availability, scope and limitations of required and optional testing.

Many well owners are unaware of the fact that the current and standard well test is very basic and only checks for contaminants like bacteria.

The bill also directs the Commission for Public Health to develop rules that would require residents who attempt to drill wells near contamination sites to complete more extensive testing.

“You prompted this. This was driven by you and Governor McCrory. You came to me a month ago and suggested we had a groundwater contamination issue with private wells. I not only thanked you for bringing to it to our attention but I acknowledged we had a problem and I told you we’d do something about it. Now we’ve done something about it and we’re continuing to do something about it. This isn’t the end but it’s a very strong beginning,” Secretary Skvarla told WNCN Investigative Reporter, Charlotte Huffman.

Huffman’s “Poison in the Water” investigation uncovered the source of contamination in a Wake Forest community and exposed how state government failed to warn families that the water they were drinking could be killing them.

In July 2012, Wake Forest families learned they had been drinking a cancer-causing chemical for years. WNCN obtained internal government e-mails through a Freedom of Information request and revealed how state regulators knew about the contamination in 2005 but ignored their own evidence of the danger.

Approximately 25 percent of North Carolina residents get their water from private well and there are thousands of known contamination sites across North Carolina where residents could be drinking dangerous chemicals.

The Private Well Water Education Act aims to stop situations like the one in Wake Forest from happening again.

“This bill addresses that issue in the sense that every new well has to be tested to a higher level. So, its not going to be an after the fact discovery. This is going to be a before the fact discovery.”

The bill is expected to go to the house floor in the next few weeks.

Representative Rick Catlin tells WNCN he expects the bill to be easy to pass because it focuses on educating the public.

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