Read the full article by Tom Perkins (HuffPost)
“In North Carolina’s Cape Fear River basin, levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, have been recorded at 1,000 times the level considered safe for human consumption. Both federal data and anecdotal evidence strongly suggest that these manufactured chemicals are linked to abnormally high rates of thyroid cancer and some other rare cancers.
PFAS have been at the forefront of an emotional public debate in the southeastern part of the state since 2016, when it was discovered that a plant owned by PFAS manufacturer Chemours in Fayetteville had contaminated the drinking water for 250,000 downstream residents. But as people plead for stronger government action, underfunded state agencies haven’t been able to fully respond ― even as North Carolina sits on a $2.5 billion budget surplus.
That’s because the state’s Republican-controlled legislature has financially kneecapped the agencies dealing with PFAS-related issues, leaving them unable to adequately test water, study health impacts, clean up the contamination and hold polluters accountable. Meanwhile, money that could save lives around the Cape Fear region now sits unspent.
‘It’s almost criminal,’ said Emily Donovan, co-founder of the Clean Cape Fear advocacy group. ‘There seems to be an unwillingness at the state level to fully research PFAS exposures and we’re left almost begging them to please pay attention and do something.’
Instead of appropriately funding the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the agency that officially handles environmental crises, the legislature created the North Carolina Policy Collaboratory, a program made up of state university researchers who study issues around PFAS contamination.
While those on all sides agree that funding academic research is a useful step, critics say the collaboratory merely creates the appearance of serious action but has been deliberately designed to be ineffective.
University researchers don’t have regulatory authority so they can’t enforce environmental laws, order cleanups or take legal action against polluters. The DEQ and other state agencies also can’t use information that the collaboratory gathers in a regulatory capacity because their data must be collected using an officially approved methodology and must remain in the state’s ‘chain of custody.’
State agencies are left unable to carry out basic responses to the PFAS crisis and protect the public, said Grady McCallie, policy director for the North Carolina Conservation Network. The state hasn’t been adequately monitoring tap water, regularly checking residents’ blood or mounting a sufficient legal challenge against polluters, he said…”