Photo by Duke University
OPINION, Dr. Lee Ferguson: Legislature's visionary effort to safeguard drinking water
Dr. Lee Ferguson, Associate Professor of Environmental Chemistry at Duke University, recently submitted an article to the Wilmington Star News offering opinion about the North Carolina General Assembly's efforts to address emerging contaminants. This opinion article led to a followup interview by Benjamin Schachtman, a reporter for the Port City Daily in Wilmington.
Dr. Ferguson calls the legislative efforts visionary and wants NC residents to know that action is being taken to protect their water.
Legislative bills introduced this past summer in part called for the creation of a consortium of expert water-quality researchers from universities across the state to determine the extent of contamination from GenX and other emerging contaminants across all public drinking-water sources in North Carolina. Dr. Ferguson believes that the final legislation, though modified from the original to focus on polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS), establishes the most sophisticated and comprehensive emerging-pollutant monitoring program for water in the United States.
Dr. Ferguson believes that activities following the legislation will reveal the extent of PFAS pollution in public drinking water statewide and provide crucial data for the application of technologies to remove these contaminants. He anticipates it will serve as a model for how states (and nations) should respond to potential chemical hazards in drinking-water sources.
In the Port City News followup interview, Dr. Ferguson said he felt the program outlined in the bill was “a good, and pretty progressive plan for monitoring emerging contaminants in the water — there’s really nothing else like it in the country.” He acknowledged that the program is not perfect, and not what scientists or legislators initially wanted. Dr. Ferguson originally wanted non-targeted analysis to test over 80,000 industrial chemicals. The final legislation adopted a targeted analysis to focus on a few thousand PFAS.