The General Assembly Doesn’t Want You to Know What’s in Your Water
by Jane Porter, originally posted on May 4, 2016
Remember when North Carolina’s health department told people their coal ash-contaminated water is now totally fine to drink, because the state changed the standard of what it considers “acceptable” levels of chemicals hexavalent chromium and vanadium?
Yeah, expect more of that.
Last week, lawmakers introduced legislation that would prohibit state and local health departments from issuing public advisories regarding drinking water contamination to well users and people on public water systems, as long as the levels of contamination are below state or federal clean water standards.
This means that if there’s hexavalent chromium, arsenic, or any other toxic chemical building up in your drinking water, you won’t be notified until you unequivocally should not drink it. Before the toxins cross that threshold, you won’t even receive helpful suggestions like “Buy a filtration system” or “Find a different water supply.”
“This is a major intrusion on the authority of state and local health departments, and it’s unprecedented in its impact on them in doing what they feel they need to do in protecting the public health,” says Hope Taylor, the executive director of the nonprofit Clean Water for North Carolina. “It’s being willing to toss the public off a cliff.”
Bill sponsors in the House and Senate, including Senators Trudy Wade, Andrew Brock, and Brent Jackson, as well as Representative Jimmy Dixon, did not respond to the INDY‘s messages seeking comment.
“The public counts on state and local health departments to provide accurate information about public health risks,” says Cassie Gavin, the director of government relations for the Sierra Club. “If this proposal becomes law, health authorities could run into the problem of knowing that contamination found in a well presents a health concern and yet be prohibited from providing well users with that information so that they can take steps to protect themselves.”