House Bill 189 - Short-term Response to Emerging Contaminants

Energy & Environment

A bill to address GenX contamination in the Cape Fear River and in drinking water supplies in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Read the full bill text on the NCGA website

Quick overview:

GenX is an emerging contaminant that was found in the Cape Fear River in 2012, and found in Wlimington drinking water in 2017. Its effects on humans are largely unknown, but chemicals similar in nature are possible carcinogens and have negative impacts on liver and kidney systems and on fertility. Read more about GenX here.

House Bill 189 does the following:

  • It requires that the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) consult with the North Carolina Department of Human Health Services
  • It requires that DEQ study the National Pollution Discharge Elimination Service (NPDES) program. This is a national program that requires any polluter to seek a permit to dump waste into any body of water. Chemours had a permit through NPDES to dispose of their waste in the Cape Fear River.
  • Directs DEQ to share information with neighboring states
  • Directs DEQ to study current requirements for dumping untreated waste
  • Directs UNC to study to the extent that public utilities can be held liable to contaminated drinking water
  • Allots $2.4 million in funding to DEQ to conduct this work.

Southern Environmental Law Center has the following issues with the bill:

  1. It will result in numerous delays to any action to alleviate GenX contamination because it requires the Department of Health and Human Services to consult with six different entities before taking any action.
  2. It doesn't clarify that DEQ has the authority set standards to protect our water because of the Hardison Amendment passed by the NCGA several years ago. The Hardison Amendment makes it illegal for North Carolina to set restrictions that are more stringent than the federal government's regulations. The federal government has not set any standards for GenX, and may not for the foreseeable future. This means that North Carolina will not be able to keep GenX out of the water.
  3. It doesn't do anything to address the GenX that Chemours is emitting into the air, which appears to be a major source of contamination in people's wells and the river.