The Battle for North Carolina’s Water
RALEIGH – Following a lengthy – and ongoing – controversy over the disposal of coal ash, officials at the NC Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ) still have a range of water-related issues to address.
The Coal Ash Management Act of 2014 required Duke Energy, the largest provider of power in the state, to rectify decades of dumping coal ash, the by-product of electricity production, into unlined pits, landfills, and other spaces throughout the state. The bill identified 33 coal ash “ponds” and created deadlines and priorities for the energy giant to move the coal ash to protected sites.
Since that time, the North Carolina General Assembly has passed numerous bills granting leniency to Duke Energy in this endeavor despite significant public outcry.
In 2015, other issues related to the state’s water supply began to emerge. Hexavalent chromium, a compound known to be toxic, showed up in routine water testing in Lee County, near the center of the state. Although hexavalent chromium is naturally occurring, the levels in the water in Lee County suggest that it comes from industry use, such as the brick-making industry that sustained the county’s economy for decades.
Hexavalent chromium can cause liver and kidney damage, nosebleeds, and a weakened immune system among other ailments, according to the Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College.
GenX, a toxic chemical, showed up in North Carolina’s water supply in 2016, adding to the concerns about the state’s water. The chemical came from the plant of Chemours, a subsidiary of Dupont. The state’s Dept. for Health and Human Services issued a statement claiming that the levels found in drinking water are likely to pose “a low risk to human health” although they admit to not knowing much about the chemical.
Grady McCallie, the policy director for the NC Conservation Network, said that he views the issue as nonpartisan.
“Clean water is not a partisan issue even if it sometimes feels like it,” said the North Carolina Wildlife Federation’s 2016 Water Conservationist of the Year. “There are a number of solutions to help clean up the state’s water supply.”
I'm a recovering journalist now living a Renaissance life working as a writer & political strategist. I also am the mom to 2 children, one of whom has autonomic dysfunction & Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder, I write about politics and healthcare in North Carolina.