May 8, 2024 - News

Efforts delayed to regulate "forever chemicals" in North Carolina

Photo: Leonard Ortiz/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

A regulatory board for environmental standards in North Carolina is delaying efforts to set new rules for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, collectively known as "forever chemicals," in ground and surface water.

Why it matters: The state has not yet set enforceable rules for the presence of PFAS in surface water despite evidence showing they can have adverse health effects, the News & Observer reports.

State of play: The rules would regulate PFAS discharges at their source, like an industrial facility on a river, to lessen the amount of water that needs to be treated at local water utilities.

  • Local utilities across the state are spending large amounts to upgrade their systems to filter PFAS. Some, like the city of Fayetteville's current $50 million request, are asking for financial help to install upgrades, the Triangle Business Journal reported.

Driving the news: The delay on setting rules for PFAS comes after two Republican-appointed members of the Environmental Management Commission stalled a potential vote, WRAL reported.

  • The two members, Tim Baumgartner and Joseph Reardon, said the state's Department of Environmental Quality, which is pushing for the new standards, hadn't provided enough information to make a vote.
  • The N.C. Chamber, a pro-business lobbying group, also pushed for a delay in the new standards, saying in a letter it wants to see more research on how much it could cost for businesses and local governments to comply with the rules.

What they're saying: Elizabeth Biser, secretary of DEQ, responded in a letter that she "was deeply disappointed" it isn't taking up the standards, noting that the state has more than 300 public water systems that have PFAS levels above federal standards.

The big picture: North Carolina is the third highest state for PFAS exposure, with notable pollution incidents occurring in the Cape Fear and Haw rivers.

  • President Biden recently highlighted his administration's efforts to set new federal standards for PFAS during his trip to Wilmington.

Go deeper with The N&O's report on the delay


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