Last week, state Attorney General Josh Stein announced an investigation into manufacturers that contaminate our waters with PFAS, the persistent compounds popularly known as “forever chemicals” because they stay in our bodies for a lifetime and can lead to cancers and other fatal and debilitating diseases.
GenX, a type of PFAS which has contaminated the Cape Fear River from Fayetteville to Wilmington, is the best-known example of PFAS pollution in our state, but the problem is found much more broadly. A PFAS monitoring program at 25 municipal wastewater treatment plants in the Cape Fear River basin found PFAS contamination in at least 19 of them, and PFAS have also been found on military bases and in local water supplies in Greensboro, Wake County, and other parts of the state.
Stein said that his investigation is intended to help understand the extent of PFAS damages to North Carolina’s water supplies and other natural resources.
“North Carolinians expect and deserve clean water to drink,” said Stein. “The emergence of forever chemicals like PFAS has led to significant and dangerous pollution – and we must hold those responsible accountable. This investigation is about protecting people from current and future PFAS contamination and restoring North Carolina’s damaged natural resources. My office will not hesitate to bring legal action against any polluters if that’s what it takes to keep the people of North Carolina safe.”
Stein has hired a national law firm experienced in PFAS-related litigation in case further expert backup is needed. Recent legislative budgets have cut funding to the Attorney General’s office and staffing in an attempt to undercut its enforcement of environmental protections.
For his strong advocacy for our people over polluters, Stein has been endorsed for re-election by our Conservation PAC.
Separately last week, the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced they had struck a deal to expand their existing consent order with Chemours, stepping up the prohibition on water contamination from Chemours’ Bladen County plant which has produced most of the PFAS pollution in the Cape Fear River basin.
“With this action, DEQ is putting its full muscle behind its mission to hold polluters accountable, and we thank them for sticking up for our people. Now we need further action from the General Assembly, Congress, and the U.S. EPA to fully research and regulate all forever chemicals that for too long have threatened every North Carolinian’s health and quality of life,” said our director of governmental relations, Dan Crawford.
DEQ has also been the subject of past budget cuts and will likely be the victim of further cuts because of the COVID-19 economic downturn’s revenue shortfalls. The Attorney General’s office and DEQ are in the right hands, but it’s clearly time for new leadership in the General Assembly, White House, and U.S. Senate this fall.