As a result of WNCN's investigation “Poison in the Water,”
Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill into law to prevent North Carolinians from drinking
The Private Well Water Education Act was sponsored by four Republican
state representatives and passed both the state House and Senate unanimously
before landing on McCrory's desk Wednesday.
Secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural
Resources John Skvarla recommended the bill.
“I promised you we would do something about it. And again
I'll never forget it because you said, ‘Well, how soon? Three weeks? Can you
get something done in three weeks?'
And I remember I called you about three days later and said, 'Charlotte, I've got a solution,'” Skvarla told WNCN reporter Charlotte
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 the previous
DENR administration knew about the contamination in 2005 but ignored their own
evidence of the danger, allowing families to continue drinking the chemicals.
The investigation also revealed there are nearly 2,000
contamination sites across the state of North Carolina where DENR knows there
is TCE contaminating the ground. In a 2012 interview, DENR officials told WNCN
the department did not have enough resources to warn families in harm's way.
Currently, federal and state laws govern the testing of
public wells and water systems. However, there is no regulation over private
The Private Well Water Education Act 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
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. Such test will cost the
well owner between $70 and $100.
The new law will also require all local health departments
to educate well owners on a regular basis about the dangers and recommended
“I think it is terrific, I really do. Like I say, I tell
everybody, 'Get that well checked,'” said Wake Forest resident Frances Cuda.
Cuda and her family drank the toxic water for years before
finding out about the contamination. She says she doesn't know what kind of
damage has been done but points to cancer cases in her family and with her next
“You know what [TCE] does and children and elderly people
can get affected very quickly. I just feel like I'm glad not that this has
happened but glad that they're doing something about it,” Cuda said.
“Here we are culminating today with not only a public
service announcement from you and Gov. McCrory, but a signing of a bill that
will give the information to the citizens of North Carolina that they've never
“We would not have addressed [the issue] as quickly and
efficiently had you not brought it to our attention immediately. This is a
major health consideration and we've got obligations to the citizens of North
Carolina to take care of it,” Skvarla said.
Approximately 25 percent of North Carolina residents get
their water from private wells.