RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT) – Lawmakers in North Carolina’s General Assembly have filed nearly a dozen bills concerning Perfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS, the group of man-made chemicals that have contaminated the drinking water supply of thousands of residents in the southeastern part of the state.
Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford County, filed three bills this week, including House Bill 501, calling for a statewide ban on manufacturing, using, and distributing PFAS and materials containing PFAS. The nine-term legislator has worked on the PFAS contamination issue for more than a decade.
“This is a toxic chemical, it is a forever chemical, and it’s causing all kinds of health concerns across the state,” Rep. Harrison said. “You all in the Wilmington area know how it has impacted your water quality, and it seems to have some health implications there as well. So, ultimately what we’d like to do is get rid of this family of forever chemicals out of commerce. That would be our ideal, but we recognize that is a tough hurdle.”
Rep. Harrison’s House Bill 502 calls for more mitigation measures, including permit-holders being forced to eliminate PFAS from any discharge into the state’s air and water. Her third bill, HB 503, calls for state agencies including the Department of Health and Human Services and Office of Management and Budget to study the health impacts of PFAS and the costs of local governments and individuals responding to PFAS contamination.
“To be realistic, I don’t expect a ban on PFAS to pass in North Carolina,” Rep. Harrison said regarding the chances of HB 501 to advance and be signed into law. “It might pass in California, but not here. But if we set a standard of what is a best-case scenario, maybe we’ll get close to that by at least limiting its use. If I were being super realistic, I’d say the best thing we could get out of this is a study in the next year. I think this is the biggest public health crisis we have in our state outside of COVID.”
Rep. Harrison is also working with Rep. Deb. Butler (D-New Hanover) on House Bill 506, which would make any manufacturer responsible for putting PFAS in the water supply liable for the cleanup and supply of alternative source of water to those affected by the contamination. In one case, it would make Chemours liable for paying the cost of Cape Fear Public Utility Authority’s granulated carbon system being built to remove the toxic chemicals from the water supply, instead of having ratepayers cover the estimated $50 million price tag.
“We’ve got a similar one in Greensboro, because we have a fire foam contamination, PFAS contamination issue, and we’re having to invest in a very expensive water treatment plant,” Rep. Harrison said. “We feel like ratepayers shouldn’t have to pay for that. It should be the polluters.”