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PFAS Failure

Early this session, it appeared the General Assembly might address the urgent, persistent PFAS pollution of the Cape Fear River, which supplies drinking water to more than half a million North Carolinians. But as in every session since 2017, when scientists sounded the alarm about decades-long GenX emissions from Chemours’ Fayetteville plant, legislators again failed to stand up to powerful polluters like Chemours.

There was a short glimmer of hope when legisla- tors introduced House Bill 1095 (1), “PFAS Pollution and Polluter Liability,” with bipartisan support. Unfortunately, this latest attempt at making polluters pay for poisoning the Cape Fear with toxic forever chemicals ended as soon as those same polluters went to work lobbying their pet politicians.

During a passionate committee hearing (2) discussing the bill, the bill’s opponents claimed it goes too far, despite the language quite narrowly applying only to Chemours. Rep. Ted Davis countered opponents’ claims, saying, “If the gentleman from Chemours really wants to show they care, why don’t they pay to make the water safe from the contamination they put in that river?” Rep. Pricey Harrison commented, “This bill will protect North Carolinians from being poisoned. I can’t believe this bill isn’t sailing through. I’m appalled.”

The good news for North Carolinians is Gov. Cooper, NCDEQ, and the EPA are stepping up to address this issue. In a press conference acknowledging the five- year anniversary of GenX’s discovery in Wilmington’s water, Gov. Cooper asserted “those who made money off of polluting the water should be the ones to pay to clean it up.” DEQ announced an action strategy (3) this summer with priorities of “protecting communities, protecting drinking water and cleaning up existing contamination.” This fall, the EPA plans to announce new drinking water health advisories for PFAS/PFOA compounds.

While action on PFAS is taking place outside of the General Assembly, we will continue to urge legislators to put people’s health above polluter profits by advocating this legislation be placed back on the table in the 2023 long session.

1: https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookUp/2021/h1095 2: https://ncpolicywatch.com/2022/06/03/at-emotional-committee-hearing-over-pfas-bill-lawmakers-and-concerned-citizens-confront-chemours-business-interests 3: https://deq.nc.gov/news/press-releases/2022/06/07/deq-announces-action-strategy-pfas

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