The Cape Fear River provides drinking water for over 1.5 million North Carolinians. It flows southeast for over 200 miles, passing by three major North Carolina cities before reaching Wilmington, which sits at the bottom of the river basin and collects drainage and runoff from more than 29 counties across the state.
For the people of Wilmington, Brunswick County, and parts of Pender County, the river is also our main source of drinking water, and chemical companies like Chemours are getting away with polluting it, dumping large quantities of PFAS toxins known as “forever chemicals” into the Cape Fear River.
In June 2017, I cofounded Clean Cape Fear after learning that corporations were poisoning our community, and we have not stopped pushing for aggressive protections of our drinking water, air, soil, and food supply. Too many families worry about PFAS and other contamination in their water, and we must act urgently to address their needs.
Clean Cape Fear is a grassroots community group working to restore and protect our water quality as well as spotlight deficiencies in governmental regulations that adversely impact our right to clean water. We are not paid advocates. We are your neighbors, your friends, your family, and your coworkers. We are sons and daughters who know the difference between right and wrong.
Five years ago we made a promise to fight irresponsible actions from companies like Chemours and hold our elected officials accountable. We are concerned residents who are tired of paying for water we don’t feel safe drinking. We are tired of seeing our bills go up. We are tired of government inaction. We are tired of elected leaders who lack the courage to take a stand against corporate polluters like Chemours.
Most importantly, we are tired of seeing our loved ones suffer, and we are not OK.
Last year, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data revealed North Carolinians with PFAS-contaminated tap water were more likely to have two or more chronic diseases than residents in the rest of the state. Last month, new research showed possible associations between PFAS blood contamination and deaths in the United States related to heart disease and cancer that is killing Americans every year at a similar rate to COVID-19. Wilmington residents have PFAS contamination in their blood at two to three times above the national average.
That’s why it’s so egregious that congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Ted Budd has voted numerous times against bipartisan legislation that would help address PFAS contamination not just in Wilmington but all across North Carolina.
In 2019, Ted Budd voted against an amendment to the PFAS Action Act that would force dischargers to report PFAS releases into waterways and require the EPA to establish clear limitations on those releases.
Last year, he voted against the PFAS Action Act of 2021, which would require the EPA to set a drinking water standard for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) within two years, designate PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances and air pollutants, set discharge limits of industrial releases of PFAS, prohibit unsafe incineration of PFAS wastes, and require comprehensive PFAS health testing. It defined PFAS in a way that won’t allow companies like Chemours to evade responsibility. It also provided $200 million annually to upgrade water infrastructure. This bill ultimately passed the House without his vote but stalled in the Senate, which is why who we send to the Senate this November matters so much.
He voted against an amendment to the annual military spending bill that would require national regulation of PFAS, strengthen disclosure requirements for PFAS manufacturers, like Chemours, provide PFAS exposure training to Department of Defense medical providers, and mandate that the military comply with safe incineration standards for PFAS.
Approving each one of these bills would bring us one step closer to the justice we seek and deserve. Just because PFAS exposures don’t impact his district as catastrophically as they do ours does not mean he should turn his back on voting with compassion and mercy for his fellow North Carolinians—especially in our time of need.
Voters deserve the right to know what’s clearly at stake in this region. We’re not getting the help and resources we need, because some members of the North Carolina congressional delegation are unwilling to support their neighbors. We deserve a leader who loves this state enough to protect us from irresponsible corporations who continue to make billions while we go into medical debt and beg for mercy through GoFundMe accounts. We deserve justice and accountability. We deserve someone who understands what those things look like.
This November, our tap water and our long-term health are on the ballot. We must elect Cheri Beasley and ensure voices in southeastern North Carolina are heard loud and clear. She is a clean water candidate and Clean Cape Fear fully endorses her work.
Emily Donovan is the cofounder of Clean Cape Fear.
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