Senators plan legislative hearing to press Cooper for answers about GenX

RALEIGH, NC (WECT) - State senators want answers from Gov. Roy Cooper on what his administration knew about GenX discharge in the Cape Fear River, and when it knew it.

In a news release sent Tuesday afternoon, members of the Senate said they plan to call a legislative hearing in hopes of getting Cooper to answer questions about his handling of the GenX issue. GenX is an unregulated compound that was discharged into the Cape Fear River by the Chemours Company at its Fayetteville Works site.

Sen. Michael Lee (R-New Hanover) spoke on behalf of the senatorial group, saying Cooper's response to the water crisis is disappointing and that the governor was less than direct when presented with questions about GenX contamination.

"We are disappointed in Gov. Cooper's proposed response to this crisis because it does nothing to actually address the immediate problem of GenX in our drinking water," Lee said. "What's worse, when we asked the governor serious questions about how his proposal would truly improve water quality in the region and when his administration knew about the GenX discharge into the Cape Fear River, we were met with an evasive, dismissive and unserious response."

Lee was one of the local leaders who met with Cooper in a closed-door meeting in Wilmington on July 24 to discuss GenX contamination. According to notes from that meeting, Lee asked Cooper: "Governor, we'd love to get a specific proposal. When we start looking at the families of compounds, do you also look at the combination so you've got GenX here, you've got PFOA over here, do you also look at the interaction?"

According to the notes, NC Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Michael Regan answered that question.

When asked by WECT's Jon Evans on Tuesday why he didn't ask Cooper those questions about GenX on July 24, Lee said, "At the time of the meeting in Wilmington, we (legislators) did not have his request nor his plan of action as to the GenX found in our drinking water. The questions we asked were brought on by his request to the Legislature last week for funding with no action steps outlined to ensure safe drinking water for New Hanover County citizens."

On Aug. 8, the NC DEQ and NC Department of Health and Human Services asked the state for $2.5 million to hire several experts to help with the GenX study.

A letter sent to Sen. Bill Cook from Regan and DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen on Monday outlines three major areas of concern: status of emerging contaminants, request for water quality assurance and the Chemours investigation. The full letter follows:

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