hexavalent chromium

Confusion and Fear in North Carolina As State Ends Drinking Water Safety Warning

Read time: 11 mins

This is a guest post by Rhiannon Fionn,  an independent investigative journalist and filmmaker in post-production on the documentary film “Coal Ash Chronicles.” 

“I’m fighting for my kids and my neighbors,” says a determined Amy Brown.

Brown and hundreds of other North Carolina residents have been using only bottled water for the better part of a year now for cooking, drinking, hygiene and even for their pets. Like Brown, most of those residents live near impoundments of coal ash — the waste product created when coal is burned for electricity.

Now residents are learning that the “do not drink” orders placed on their well water supplies have been lifted by state officials. That decision has provoked fear and confusion among residents and some experts about the safety of their water supply. “This news makes me feel like we’re not getting anywhere,” said Brown, before her voice wavered with emotion.

In April 2015, the state began notifying residents their water wells were contaminated, many with the carcinogen hexavalent chromium and vanadium, which is known to harm kidneys and affect blood pressure.

Residents were issued the “do not drink” notices by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. Duke Energy’s coal ash impoundments were suspected as the cause of the contamination and the company was compelled by the state legislature to provide bottled water.

But last Monday, March 7, during a county commission meeting in rural Lee County, state officials announced most of the “do not drink” orders were being withdrawn.

Legal Petition Seeks Emergency Moratorium On Fracking in California

Read time: 4 mins

A coalition of over 150 environmental, health, and public advocacy organizations in California filed a legal petition Thursday seeking to compel Governor Jerry Brown to issue an emergency moratorium on fracking in the state.

The proximate cause for the legal petition seems to be revelations that fracking flowback in California was found to contain dangerously high levels of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals such as benzene, toluene and hexavalent chromium. But evidence has been mounting for months that drastic measures are needed, as state regulators have utterly failed to protect residents from the oil and gas industry in California.

Flowback is a fluid that floats to the surface of fracked wells and is a key component of oil industry wastewater, which is most often disposed of by injecting it underground.

Over the past few months, however, it has come to light that regulators with California’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) allowed hundreds of injection wells to dump oil industry wastewater into aquifers that contain water clean enough to drink or that could be made drinkable, and hence should have been protected under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. The agency also permitted thousands more wells to inject fluids from “enhanced oil recovery” techniques such as acidization and cyclic steam injection into protected aquifers.

Subscribe to hexavalent chromium