RALEIGH, N.C. – A group of 15 environmental and health organizations delivered a letter to Governor McCrory on Monday expressing major concern over drinking water of people living next to coal ash ponds.

The letter urges McCrory to investigate and to take immediate action to address the confusion over whether the water is safe to drink.

“Over the past few weeks, you and your administration have taken troubling steps that place at risk the health of those who live near and downstream of Duke Energy’s leaking coal ash pits,” the letter reads. “As the leader of our state, the responsibility to protect North Carolinians rests with you. We urge you to demand that leaders in your administration prioritize the health of the people and families living near coal ash ponds in North Carolina.”

CBS North Carolina reached out to Governor McCrory’s office for comment. They did not respond. Instead, Crystal Feldman, Deputy Secretary for Public Affairs at NCDEQ issued this statement:

“The state’s decisions about how to best protect the environment and public health are firmly rooted in sound science. The liberal groups launching this coordinated attack are more interested in scoring political points and fundraising than protecting the health and interest of North Carolinians.”

WEB EXTRA: Read the letter here.

Last spring, DHHS sent letters to people who live near coal ash ponds, advising them not to drink their well water. The letters said there were elevated levels of vanadium and hexavalent chromium found in some water samples. But at the same time, state environmental regulators at DEQ were assuring residents their water was safe.

Tom Reeder, the Department of Environmental Quality’s assistant secretary for the environment, admitted it created confusion.

Dr. Randall Williams, the state health director and a deputy secretary for health services at DHHS, says the letters were sent in abundance of caution.

In March, the health department rescinded their “do not drink” letters and sent out new “do drink” letters.

“The state has dangerously erred and abandoned its own laws by rescinding the do-not-drink orders. Imagine if in Flint, MI, the government not only ignored the problem, but also tried to increase the permissible level of lead in drinking water. That’s what’s happening here,” said Upper Neuse Riverkeeper Matthew Starr.

Dr. Williams says, at the time, they believed there may have been a point source of contamination.

Many of the residents who live next to Duke Energy’s sites blame the coal ash ponds.

Duke Energy says its coal ash ponds are not responsible for the contaminants but supplied residents with bottled water.

Dr. Williams says the EPA is planning on issuing new information on hexavalent chromium in December, and he believes that will eventually help change the current North Carolina health screening level.

The organizations sending the letter to the governor include: American Rivers, Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, Cape Fear River Watch, Environment North Carolina, Greenpeace NC, MountainTrue, NC Conservation Network, NC League of Conservation Voters, NC WARN, Sound Rivers, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Southern Environmental Law Center, Waterkeeper Alliance, Winyah Rivers Foundation, and Yadkin Riverkeeper.

They are asking the governor to begin an investigation as to who ‘overruled agency health experts.’ They also want the “do drink” letters to be withdrawn.

“Our politically appointed public health officials have chosen to reject the health protection standards for well water set by their own experts in favor of arguments made by Duke Energy’s paid consultants. It is a testament to the state of government in North Carolina that our highest public health officials chose to rely on the conclusions of experts paid by Duke Energy rather than what their own staff said was required by state public health rules,” said Yadkin Riverkeeper Will Scott.