DEQ, DHHS heads respond to state senators’ letter, outline request to protect drinking water

Raleigh, NC

The heads of the state departments of Health and Human Services and Environmental Quality have responded to an inquiry from members of the N.C. Senate and outlined the departments’ critical funding needs to help protect water quality for North Carolinians. 

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Secretary Mandy Cohen and the Department of Environmental Quality’s Secretary Michael Regan responded Monday to the Aug. 9 letter from seven members of the N.C. Senate.  

Cohen and Regan outlined their departments’ needs for an emergency appropriation to fund more scientists, medical experts, engineers and inspectors and for long-term testing to monitor for the presence of GenX and other emerging chemical compounds in the Cape Fear River and other inland waterways that are drinking water sources.

“We are ready to engage in a productive dialogue about these topics and are available to meet in person to share more information with you about our request for expedited funding and personnel,” Cohen and Regan’s letter states. “We are glad you are reviewing the effect of legislative budget cuts, both past and current.”

The large scope and pressing nature of the presence of these compounds in the Cape Fear River requires a larger response than the departments have resources to provide while continuing to meet the day-to-day operational requirements, the letter adds.

Since 2013, DEQ has seen the elimination of approximately 70 positions that supported the permitting, compliance and enforcement programs. The additional appropriation would allow DEQ to fund positions to help protect water quality and cover the expense of tests monitoring the presence of emerging contaminants in waterways statewide. These funds would also allow DHHS to create a Water Health and Safety Unit to enhance the state’s understanding of and response to unregulated compounds, and to help protect families’ drinking water. 

More details are available in the attached letter.

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