News: Quick Takes

Senators pepper Cooper with questions about GenX funding request

State senators are asking Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration to answer more than 20 questions in the next five days, as they consider his request for an extra $2.58 million to deal with concerns about a chemical discharge in the Cape Fear River.

The seven Republican senators submitted the questions in a letter Wednesday to Cooper and two of his Cabinet secretaries. Questions focus on the Cooper administration’s handling of the controversial discharge of the chemical GenX.

“We are deeply concerned by recent news reports about the discharge of GenX in the Cape Fear River and share your commitment to ensuring our neighbors in the lower Cape Fear region have clean, safe drinking water,” the letter states. “While we review your administration’s request for a roughly $2.58 million additional appropriation, we also want to address recent news reports that have called attention to multiple inconsistencies in your administration’s handling of this crisis.”

Opening questions focus on the interaction between Cooper’s Cabinet-level agencies and Chemours, the company involved with the chemical discharge.

“When was the first instance anyone from your administration discussed GenX in the Cape Fear River with Chemours or anyone else?” the letter asks.

“At any time did [the Department of Environmental Quality] know about and/or approve the discharge of GenX?” the letter continues. “If not, please explain the information related in a June 29 news report stating, ‘state regulators said Chemours informed them in its most recent discharge permit application and “all previous applications” that it was releasing GenX and other related substances from the Fayetteville Works plant into the Cape Fear River, a process that has occurred since 1980.’”

Additional questions address such issues as the reasons for a probe from the State Bureau of Investigation, changes in the administration’s estimates of the safe level of GenX in drinking water, and the purpose of the additional requested state funding.

“It is our belief the public should receive answers to these important questions,” the letter concludes. “Given that the General Assembly will now be coming back into session within little more than a week, a swift response will help ensure we consider your answers as part of the review process. Please send answers to these questions to us by 5 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 14.”

Sens. Bill Cook, Rick Gunn, Michael Lee, Bill Rabon, Norm Sanderson, Trudy Wade, and Andy Wells signed the letter.

Concerns about GenX have made headlines since early June. Residents and officials downstream from Fayetteville have raised concerns about the chemical appearing in their drinking water. Media reports suggest Wilmington, Delaware-based Chemours and DuPont have been releasing GenX into the Cape Fear River intermittently since 1980. (Chemours spun off from DuPont in 2015). GenX is discharged from a vinyl ether process being conducted at Chemours’ Fayetteville Works plant.