air & water pollution

Trump will go down in history as the anti-environment President

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Endangering the health of citizens and ecosystems alike:

The bulk of the rollbacks identified by the Times have been carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency, which has weakened Obama-era limits on planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and from cars and trucks; removed protections from more than half the nation's wetlands; and withdrawn the legal justification for restricting mercury emissions from power plants.

At the same time, the Interior Department has worked to open up more land for oil and gas leasing by limiting wildlife protections and weakening environmental requirements for projects.

Before we get into the details of Trump's transgressions against the environment, here's another angle to consider: NC's Republican Legislative leaders pushed hard to restrict DENR (now DEQ) from enacting rules that were tougher that EPA guidelines, arguing the Federal rules were "more than enough" to protect our air and water. But have you seen those Republicans taking any steps to counter all these Trump rollbacks? That's a rhetorical question, because of course not. They simply don't care about the environment, clean water, breathable air, etc. Not on their radar, period. Back to Trump:

Notes from the Kakistocracy: Andrew Wheeler just might be an idiot

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Asking Chemours to make a newer, safer forever chemical:

Andrew Wheeler, the administrator of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said on Monday the Chemours Co. chemical plant near Fayetteville should switch production to a newer, less dangerous form of the controversial PFAS chemical.

The roundtable is being held by U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C. The meeting includes several local elected officials, a Cumberland County deputy manager, and members of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) were invited, officials said later Monday.

Guess what, Einstein? GenX is the newer and supposedly safer chemical. It was developed to replace C8, after DuPont lost a massive lawsuit related to the contamination of the Ohio River and the poisoning of local residents:

MVP Southgate pipeline has key permit denied by NC DEQ

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Fantastic news for Alamance and Rockingham Counties:

nother natural gas pipeline in North Carolina has been derailed, at least temporarily, as the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality has denied a water quality permit for the MVP Southgate project that would route through Rockingham and Alamance counties.

In a letter released this afternoon, Division of Water Resources Director Danny Smith wrote, “Due to uncertainty surrounding the completion of the MVP Mainline project,” it has determined that “work on the Southgate extension could lead to unnecessary water quality impacts and disturbance of the environment in North Carolina.”

This project has been flying under the radar of most North Carolina areas, since it is a relatively short spur compared to the now defunct ACP. But it is a very real (and frightening) issue for many of us in Alamance County. The "landmen" have been poking around on people's properties since last year, and some property owners have been taken to court for not allowing those trespassers access:

Trump threatens to Veto HR 535 PFAS regulatory bill

Breaking his own promise to control these chemicals:

The Trump administration threatened to veto H.R. 535, the PFAS Action Act, which would set deadlines for EPA to reduce ongoing PFAS releases and set a drinking water standard for two notorious PFAS chemicals. Last February, David Ross, the Environmental Protection Agency’s assistant administrator for water, pledged to Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the top Democrat on the Senate environment panel, that “by the end of this year,” the agency “will propose a regulatory determination, which is the next step in the Safe Drinking Water Act process” for establishing an enforceable legal limit.

But although the EPA has sent a regulatory determination to the White House, administration officials have blocked efforts to require drinking water utilities to filter PFAS from tap water.

It's an election year, so you'll have to excuse me for moving politics to the forefront of this conversation. But this issue is in the top five of things that directly affect North Carolinians, and those voters need to know just how little Trump cares about the health and well-being of their families. Every day that passes in the absence of EPA oversight is a gift to polluters like Chemours, and a curse to the rest of the state. But it isn't just a NC problem, some 100 million Americans may be dealing with these chemicals in their drinking water:

Officials refuse to name company that discharged 1,4 Dioxane

Greensboro has some questions that need answering:

State regulators and Greensboro officials refuse to identify an industry they say accidentally released a large amount of a likely carcinogen into the Cape Fear River basin, temporarily fouling drinking water for Pittsboro, Fayetteville and perhaps other cities downstream. Greensboro officials and the state Department of Environmental Quality also won’t say how the release of 1,4 dioxane happened and how much of the chemical was discharged.

Both entities called the release “a mistake,” one that caused the level of 1,4 dioxane in Pittsboro’s drinking water to temporarily spike in August to more than 300 times the lifetime cancer risk level set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"Mistake" or not, withholding the name of the company is simply not acceptable. It shields them from exposure to the media, which in many cases do a better job at holding polluters accountable than regulatory agencies do. It also raises many questions about potential conflicts of interest, from campaign donations to government incentives, and many of those questions would simply disappear with a little sunlight shining on the scene. And this timeline is nothing short of infuriating:

GenX concentration in Wilmington's water a lot worse than previously reported

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Sometimes breakthroughs in technology are depressing as hell:

According to a new analysis of preserved samples from 2014 to 2016, PFAS that contain an ether molecule were found at concentrations of at least as high as 130,000 parts per trillion near Lock and Dam No. 1, near the drinking water intake for the City of Wilmington. The contamination originated at the Chemours/DuPont facility more than 80 miles upstream.

The samples at Lock and Dam No. 1 were taken in 2015 by NC State and EPA researchers. But only now, with advanced technology, can scientists more accurately measure the concentrations of PFAS in water.

Don't be fooled by the short time range of the samples; those levels have likely been that high for decades:

Congress probing DuPont/Chemours over PFAS-related illnesses

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Debbie Wasserman Schultz rakes them over the coals:

For more than two and a half hours on Tuesday, Wasserman Schultz and many of her colleagues on the House Oversight and Reform Committee grilled and castigated company officials over their refusal to accept responsibility for the widespread contamination of drinking water by perfluorinated compounds.

Corporate representatives blamed one another for the nationwide contamination. They dodged questions. 3M’s senior vice president of corporate affairs, Denise Rutherford, despite being under oath, falsely claimed — or lied — that there were no human illnesses linked to exposure to these compounds.

That's the same thing they said about C8, the predecessor to GenX. Just before DuPont paid $670 Million to settle a class-action lawsuit from all the people made ill by the compound. Go get 'em Debbie:

Nearly half of Char-Meck schools have Lead in drinking water

Time to rip out all those pipes and replace them:

Researchers have found elevated levels of lead in the drinking water of schools in Charlotte. Lead is highly toxic and impairs neurological function, especially in children. The report, conducted by researchers at the Environment America Research and Policy Center, found that 41 out of 89 schools in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg district had taps with lead exceeding 15 parts per billion, the Environmental Protection Agency's limit for lead in drinking water.

However, most medical and public-health experts say there is no safe level of lead for children. Drew Ball, director of the nonprofit organization Environment North Carolina, says this is a problem state officials and lawmakers can work together to fix. "When we find lead in tap water, we can put filters on, we can replace piping, we can make that change to ensure that our children's health is safe," says Ball.

What's even more stunning than these test results is the fact NC doesn't (and hasn't) required testing for lead in school water fountains. Is this a side-effect of how our schools are funded, with the state paying teacher salaries but counties being responsible for construction and maintenance of the facilities? Whatever the case, that should have been straightened out decades ago. And for those penny-pinching county commissioners out there who (always) seek the cheapest solution possible, that's just another false economy:

GenX may be the tip of the toxic iceberg in NC's rivers

And those myriad other sources will be difficult to pinpoint:

Elevated levels of industrial pollutants in North Carolina rivers are almost certainly not limited to areas near Wilmington and Fayetteville, where GenX contamination has raised concerns in recent years, according to environmental scientists. They point to evidence from initial findings in other communities as they prepare a statewide testing plan.

As researchers and policymakers took a deeper look at the causes of pollutants and what it would take to get ahead of similar incidents of contamination, there was a growing realization that what happened in Wilmington was not an isolated case.

I first moved to Alamance County in 1973, and the Haw River was notorious back then for being too nasty to even contemplate swimming or kayaking in. Textile mills and other industrial sites were still discharging (point-source) directly into the river, as the Clean Water Act was still in its infancy and enforcement was gearing up. The transformation of that river over the following ten years was nothing short of amazing, but that progress was not as effective as everybody thought at the time:

Chemours re-importing GenX waste from the Netherlands

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Too hazardous for Europe, just fine for North Carolina:

Chemours has “historically recycled” GenX waste at its Fayetteville Works plant that originated from the company’s facility in Dordrecht, Netherlands, a spokeswoman confirmed Friday. The purpose of exporting the material “is to reduce that quantity that is emitted or becomes waste,” Chemours spokeswoman Lisa Randall said.

“The re-importation of material from Dordrecht for responsible recycle is not something new,” Randall said, and has been occurring for about five years with EPA approval.

That five year timeline becomes much more significant when you look at the history of the DuPont/Chemours operation in Dordrecht. In 2012 Dutch regulators cracked down on the company for decades of mishandling C8 (precursor to GenX), including the mass dumping of the chemical compound in area landfills:

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