State Senate budget would fund new DEQ section to tackle PFAS in drinking water

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The State Department of Environmental Quality would receive more than $ 974,000 to create a new section on emerging compounds, according to the State Senate Budget Released Today. The money would be used to fund 10 new posts in the Water Resources Division; it is recurring, which means that funding would have to be renewed each year.

Emerging compounds include PFAS – perfluorinated and polyfluoroalkyl compounds – and 1,4-dioxane. Both are toxic and have been widely detected in state and nation water supplies.

The funding is a small portion of the ministry’s overall appropriation of $ 104.7 million for the 2021-2022 biennium. In 2022-2023, the agency will receive $ 107.9 million.

The addition of a section on emerging compounds marks a reversal of staff cuts for a decade at DEQ. The proposed number of full-time equivalent positions is 1,123, up from 1,096 in 2017. However, the Senate figure is still 100 positions lower than what was budgeted in 2016.

The current budget would create several other positions as part of DEQ’s license transformation program.

As part of the Senate budget, the NC Policy Collaboratory would become permanent. Created in 2016, it mobilizes researchers from North Carolina universities to study environmental and public health issues. Initially, his main tasks were to conduct research on water quality issues in Lake Jordan, then expand to the monitoring and elimination of PFAS in drinking water, and more recently to COVID-19.

The budget would require the Collaborative to work with the Office of the State Fire Marshal to track the storage and use of aqueous film-forming foams, known as AFFF. These foams historically contained PFAS, which not only endangers groundwater, but can also cause serious health problems for firefighters who are chronically exposed to the material.

The Office of the State Fire Marshal would report annually to the Environmental Review Board on the use and inventory of AFFFs by state fire departments. The information would include the names and addresses of fire stations; the number of trucks transporting AFFF and the volume; where the foam was used; and trade names.

People whose private drinking water wells are contaminated with PFAS may also be eligible for public funds to pay for alternative water supplies, regardless of their income.

Since 2006, the Bernard Allen Memorial Drinking Water Fund has funded testing of private wells in areas with suspected groundwater contamination for low-income households. If contamination is detected, these households may also receive funding to be connected to a public water supply or other alternatives, such as drilling a deeper well or installing an osmosis system. reverse.

The income limitation is lifted for households whose water is contaminated with PFAS above health advice targets set by the state Department of Health and Human Services or the EPA; this maximum level is currently 70 parts per trillion, although some states have set more stringent standards.

Chemours, which is responsible for contaminating private groundwater wells in the Lower Cape Fear River Basin, must pay for testing and alternatives under a consent order; these funds would likely help cover households whose contamination has not been attributed to Chemours.

To meet the anticipated demand for testing, the Senate nearly doubled the Bernard Allen Fund from $ 400,000 to $ 700,000 in one-time funds each biennium.

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