RALEIGH, NC (WECT) - Citing a lack of manpower due to 70 positions being eliminated in their departments, the secretaries of the NC Department of Environmental Quality and the NC Department of Health and Human Services have asked the state for funding to help their ongoing investigation into GenX contamination in the Cape Fear River.
According to a news release sent Tuesday afternoon, the money would be used to support additional scientists, engineers and health professionals to ensure water testing and protection.
GenX is an unregulated compound that was discharged into the Cape Fear River by the Chemours Company at its Fayetteville Works site. NCDEQ and NCDHHS denied Chemours' most recent permit request to release GenX, Gov. Roy Cooper requested the State Bureau of Investigation look into the issue and state Attorney General Josh Stein's office initiated a Civil Investigative Demand (CID) for Chemours, but in their letter addressed to Rep. Ted Davis, NCDEQ Secretary Michael Regan and NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said more needs to be done.
"Efforts to protect our drinking water can't stop here," the letter read. "We ask that when you reconvene in September (for the next General Assembly session) you authorize an emergency appropriation to provide North Carolina with more frequent testing, scientists, medical experts, engineers and inspectors."
The DHHS is requesting $2,049,569 and the DHHS is asking for $530,839.
With those funds, the DHHS hopes to hire the following people:
- A medical risk assessor, a physician who has experience with poisoning and environmental toxicity;
- A PhD toxicologist, to research and review available studies and formulate strategies to mitigate harmful health effects;
- Am informatics/ epidemiologist, to organize data and perform high-level analysis to arrive at causation of harm;
- A health educator, to establish adequate public notifications and provide educational materials and briefings to the public.
The DEQ money would go toward funding for long-term water sampling for the presence of GenX by DEQ at a cost of $14,000 per week for a full year. According to Tuesday's release, the cost is currently being funded by the corporation and performed by the Environmental Protection Agency and private labs on a time-limited basis.
The DEQ also hopes to hire staff for the Division of Water Resources.
"Already a backlog of wastewater permits exists, and the review time can take as long as two years," Tuesday's release read. "Adding experts would give us more thorough and timely review."
To help with that, the DEQ wants four engineers, three environmental specialists, two environmental senior specialists, two hydrogeologists, two program consultants, a business technology analyst and two chemist III to strengthen the Division of Water Resources so it can address unregulated compounds in the water discharge permitting program and allow more frequent sampling and faster evaluation.
The DEQ also requested moving the permits from paper copies to an electronic database to integrate wastewater, drinking water and groundwater information and allow for easy searches.
Here is a copy of the letter Regan and Cohen sent to Davis: