RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina lawmakers gave the go-ahead to move forward with a proposed bill that would make some short-term changes addressing emerging contaminants in the environment.
This topic has been increasingly in the public eye after news last summer that Chemours had been discharging GenX, an unregulated compound used to make Teflon, into the Cape Fear River.
But some say the proposed changes in the bill are not enough.
“This is not just a Wilmington problem,” said Matthew Starr, Upper Neuse Riverkeeper. “It is a state of North Carolina problem.”
“What we’re faced with here today, Mr. Chairman, is a desire of the people, the people, to know what is in the rivers,” said Rep. Jimmy Dixon, (R) Duplin County, at a meeting Thursday of the House Select Committee on North Carolina River Quality.
The proposed changes in the bill include studying how public and private water utilities may be held civilly liable for distributing drinking water contaminated by an unregulated pollutant.
Another change would direct the state to share its water quality data with neighboring states. The bill also would require the Department of Health and Human Services to work with the state Science Advisory Board on health goals for emerging contaminants.
“It’s a starting point that we can subsequently build on,” said Rep. Ted David, (R) New Hanover County, Committee Co-Chair.
What’s not in the proposed bill is more money.
“The agencies who can actually impact this issue, DHHS and DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality), need more funding,” said Mary Maclean Asbill with the Southern Environmental Law Center.
“House leadership has been working on possible funding that might be considered along with the proposed legislation,” said Davis. “However, it is still a work in progress.”
Some also criticized state lawmakers for holding the meeting on a day where parts of North Carolina are under a state of emergency.
“They held their one public comment meeting today here in Raleigh far removed from the people who are impacted by this crisis,” said Asbill. “They couldn’t get here.”
CBS North Carolina asked Davis why the committee meeting was held Thursday.
“Because we are going into session on January 10, which is next Wednesday,” he said. “Today is Thursday.”
Wednesday is when the bill could go before the entire General Assembly. That’s after the committee gave it a favorable report.