Thursday, August 11, 2016

N.C. state epidemiologist quits, says state misleads public on screening of wells near power plants

North Carolina’s state epidemiologist resigned Wednesday, saying the administration of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, a former Duke Energy employee running for a second term, “deliberately misleads the public” in its screening standards to test private wells near Duke’s power plants and coal-ash ponds, Bruce Henderson reports for The Charlotte Observer. Dr. Megan Davies had worked for the state for seven years.

"The millions of tons of coal ash stored at Duke’s power plants has contaminated groundwater under them," Henderson writes. "State tests last year found that cancer-causing chemicals were present in hundreds of nearby private wells, although Duke denies coal ash is the source. Davies and the state toxicologist, Kenneth Rudo, have testified in sworn depositions that state environmental officials pressured public health scientists to relax temporary limits created to test the private wells for two elements, vanadium and cancer-causing hexavalent chromium."

On Tuesday the state Department of Health and Human Services and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality "released an editorial that criticized Rudo for temporary standards that it said were far more stringent than those used in other states." Davies said the temporary standards were actually developed by DEQ.

Davies, who was Rudo's boss, said department officials knew Rudo was only one of several officials who reviewed the screening standards, Henderson writes. She wrote in her resignation letter: “I can only conclude that the department’s leadership is fully aware that this document misinforms the public. I cannot work for a department and administration that deliberately misleads the public.”

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