Gov. McCrory signs bill protecting consumers from drinking toxic - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

Gov. McCrory signs bill protecting consumers from drinking toxic water

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The Private Well Water Education Act was sponsored by four Republican state representatives and passed both the state House and Senate unanimously. The Private Well Water Education Act was sponsored by four Republican state representatives and passed both the state House and Senate unanimously.
RALEIGH, N.C. -

As a result of WNCN's investigation "Poison in the Water," Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill into law to prevent North Carolinians from drinking toxic chemicals.

The Private Well Water Education Act was sponsored by four Republican state representatives and passed both the state House and Senate unanimously before landing on McCrory's desk Wednesday.

Secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources John Skvarla recommended the bill.

"I promised you we would do something about it. And again I'll never forget it because you said, ‘Well, how soon? Three weeks? Can you get something done in three weeks?'

And I remember I called you about three days later and said, 'Charlotte, I've got a solution,'" Skvarla told WNCN reporter Charlotte Huffman.

In July 2012, Wake Forest families learned they had been drinking a cancer-causing chemical for years. WNCN obtained internal government e-mails through a Freedom of Information request and revealed how the previous DENR administration knew about the contamination in 2005 but ignored their own evidence of the danger, allowing families to continue drinking the chemicals.

The investigation also revealed there are nearly 2,000 contamination sites across the state of North Carolina where DENR knows there is TCE contaminating the ground. In a 2012 interview, DENR officials told WNCN the department did not have enough resources to warn families in harm's way.

Currently, federal and state laws govern the testing of public wells and water systems. However, there is no regulation over private wells.

The Private Well Water Education Act requires local health departments to provide information to citizens constructing new drinking water wells regarding drinking water standards and the availability, scope and limitations of required and optional testing.

Many well owners are unaware of the fact that the current and standard well test is very basic and only checks for contaminants like bacteria.

The bill also directs the Commission for Public Health to develop rules that would require residents who attempt to drill wells near contamination sites to complete more extensive testing. Such test will cost the well owner between $70 and $100.

The new law will also require all local health departments to educate well owners on a regular basis about the dangers and recommended testing.

"I think it is terrific, I really do. Like I say, I tell everybody, 'Get that well checked,'" said Wake Forest resident Frances Cuda.

Cuda and her family drank the toxic water for years before finding out about the contamination. She says she doesn't know what kind of damage has been done but points to cancer cases in her family and with her next door neighbor.

"You know what [TCE] does and children and elderly people can get affected very quickly. I just feel like I'm glad not that this has happened but glad that they're doing something about it," Cuda said.

"Here we are culminating today with not only a public service announcement from you and Gov. McCrory, but a signing of a bill that will give the information to the citizens of North Carolina that they've never had before.

"We would not have addressed [the issue] as quickly and efficiently had you not brought it to our attention immediately. This is a major health consideration and we've got obligations to the citizens of North Carolina to take care of it," Skvarla said.

Approximately 25 percent of North Carolina residents get their water from private wells.

RELATED LINKS

Charlotte Huffman

An award-winning journalist with an investigative edge, Charlotte has driven legislative change with reports on workplace safety concerns and contaminated groundwater. Contact our Investigative Team anytime HERE. More>>

Poison in the Water

There are at least 2,000 sites statewide where DENR knows there is TCE contamination that is likely spreading into the water of unsuspecting families. More>>

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