The North Carolina Water Safety Act: What You Need to Know


Analies Dyjak  |  Policy Nerd

On May 21st, 2018, The Water Safety Act was proposed into both the North Carolina House and Senate. The goal of this joint bill is to provide a solution to the PFAS contamination in the Cape Fear River. Effluent discharge of GenX, a type of Per and Polyfluroalkyl Substances (PFAS) from the Chemours plant in Fayetteville, North Carolina has contaminated drinking water throughout a majority of the state. Opponents of the bill are worried that imposing the burden of water testing onto private entities will eliminate the states enforcement power. Proponents believe that the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality hasn’t taken sufficient action in mitigating this water quality crisis, and that it’s now the job of outside organizations to fix the problem.

Overview of the Drinking Water Safety Act

The proposed bill will allocate funding to numerous public and private agencies in the amount of:
  • $450,000 to the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) for water quality sampling and testing of treatment techniques, to address per and polyfluroalkyl substances (PFAS), including GenX, and other contaminants
  • $530,839 to the Department of Health and Human Services to create a Water Health and Safety Unit
  • $8,000,000 to the North Carolina Policy Collaboratory (NCPC) at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
  • $1,300,000 to the Department of Environmental Quality
  • $25,000 to the Rural Economic Development Division

A major component of this drinking water safety act is to establish a permanent alternative water supply for private well users that have detected GenX contamination. This is the number one priority and largest concern coming from individuals in the Cape Fear watershed area. If a direct linkage from the Chemours plant to a household drinking water source is detected, the company must pay for a filtration system rather than just providing bottled water.
Sponsors of the bill focused on solutions that would provide drinking water to effected citizens in the Cape Fear area. The proposed bill is extremely heavy on data collection and analysis. The majority of funding, ($8,000,000) is proposed to be allocated to Universities and private entities to analyze household water quality data. Funding will either come from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality or the overall state budget to contract out scientific research.

The proposed bill also increases accountability within the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program. The bill is calling for all NPDES permit holders to re-submit their inadequately completed permits back into the NCDEQ to be reviewed by scientists and the public. The resubmittal must disclose all potential pollutants and a Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) number if available. If a CAS number is unavailable, chemical composition of contaminants must be properly and thoroughly disclosed.

What are Opponents Saying?

Governor Cooper called for an increase in the NCDEQ funding to bring back science-related jobs, engineers, medical researchers, and permit reviewers. However, Senate leaders claim that the NCDEQ has failed to resolve the water contamination crisis so far and that the responsibility should be imposed elsewhere. Opponents of the bill are worried that outside agencies won’t prioritize water quality data from the Cape Fear area and that receiving results will take longer than anticipated.

Our Analysis:

While we do believe that allowing universities to perform outside water testing will expedite data analysis, universities should not replace the duties of a regulatory body. University labs are not subject to the same standards as accredited water testing labs, which could weaken enforcement efforts if those lab results are submitted as evidence in a court case. Reallocating funds from a state agency is extremely risky in terms of future policy making. Additionally, stripping funding from the NCDEQ reduces necessary enforcement and monitoring power to ensure compliance with the bill. The Bill would also give primary authority to the Governor to make decisions about the Chemours plant. Depending on the motive of the North Carolina Governor, this could either be extremely favorable for future contamination, or disastrous. Outside agencies that are performing water quality testing won’t have a regulatory body watching their every move. Laboratories could potentially prioritize other data over Cape Fear and results could take longer than anticipated. Whether the NCDEQ has failed to take action due to scientific uncertainty or lack of funding, the proposed joint bill offers a short-term solution to GenX contamination.

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) has taken little to no action to mitigate exposure of PFAS chemicals from the Chemours plant in Fayetteville. The NCDEQ provides constituents with information on health effects of GenX, exposure routes, sampling information, and drinking water alerts, but has failed to provide a solution to the problem. Admittedly, the bill doesn’t enact a long-term plan for dealing with PFAS contamination. It will act as a band-aid to provide quick solutions to a problem that will take years of mitigation. 
Our filters have been laboratory tested to remove PFAS. If you have any questions regarding PFAS contamination in North Carolina, or about purchasing a water filtration system, send us an email at

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Chemours NPDES Permit
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