Read the full article by Lisa Sorg (NC Policy Watch)
“North Carolina is now into Year 4 of its GenX crisis — nearing the equivalent of a presidential term — since the residents of Cumberland, Bladen, Brunswick and New Hanover counties learned their drinking water was contaminated with toxic GenX discharging from the Chemours plant upstream.
Since then, the EPA has merely nibbled around the edges of a nationwide problem. Although the agency routinely issues press releases about its latest forays into ‘exploring,’ ‘examining’ and “modeling’ for GenX and other perfluorinated compounds — PFAS — it has enacted no enforceable regulations to protect the millions of people whose drinking water is contaminated. The agency has dragged its feet in providing guidance to the states, resulting in a patchwork of anemic health advisory goals and murky recommendations.
But yesterday, the EPA did participate in a PFAS roundtable in Fayetteville. And it announced an Apprentice-style challenge to find ways to dispose of the toxic compounds.
U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, a Republican representing the 8th congressional district of North Carolina, opened the meeting with what was supposed to be a reassurance: ‘People are scared. We need standards and tools to prevent future contamination,’ he said. ‘Making sure our community has safe and clean drinking water is a nonpartisan issue.’
Yet the discussion, held on the second floor of the Systel Building in downtown Fayetteville where Hudson has a congressional office, excluded nearly all elected Democrats. In addition to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a Trump appointee, and Region 4 Administrator Mary Walker, the attendees included State Rep. John Szoka, a Cumberland County Republican; two Republican Cumberland County commissioners; and Deputy County Manager Duane Holder, who is registered as unaffiliated. W. Marshall Faircloth was the only Democrat.
Not invited: The rest of the legislative delegation from Cumberland County, all Democrats.
Not invited: The public or the press.
Invited, but too late: Representatives from the NC Department of Environmental Quality, even though the agency’s Fayetteville Regional Office is in the same building, on the seventh floor.
Hudson had cited the threat of COVID-19 to justify excluding anyone but select invitees from the discussion. (Hudson’s staff streamed the meeting on Facebook, but the public could only vent their frustrations in the comment box, not fully participate.) However, only one of the eight roundtable attendees wore a mask during the meeting; the participants sat closer than six feet from one another. And social distancing was impossible at the subsequent press gaggle, held in the building’s small foyer.
Given the lack of any meaningful announcement or updates about PFAS contamination, the event functioned as a pretense for a campaign stop — for Szoka and Hudson, who are up for re-election (Hudson’s wife, Renee, worked as chief of staff for President Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway) and for Trump, via his proxy, the EPA’s Wheeler.
At the roundtable, Hudson told Wheeler he was ‘encouraged by the speed of the [EPA’s] action plan’ on PFAS.
In reality, the EPA’s action plan has done little to prevent PFAS and GenX contamination from entering the environment; it has achieved even less in cleaning it up…”