Emails Show NC-DEQ & DHHS Are Misleading Public About Contaminated Drinking Water

Winston-Salem Journal finds that the McCrory Administration is overriding its own public health experts in order to protect the governor’s former employer

As the McCrory Administration attempts to downplay coal ash contamination in over a dozen communities across the state, a new article from the Winston-Salem Journal finds that the governor’s Department of Environmental Quality and Dept. of Health & Human Services are misleading the public by diluting water quality guidelines.

The Winston-Salem Journal’s findings include:

  • Administrators at DHHS and DEQ are overriding their own experts as they try to explain why they are lifting many of the do-not-drink warnings on water wells contaminated with cancer-causing hexavalent chromium near coal ash pits.

  • Rescinding the do-not-drink letters makes it easier for Duke Energy to stop providing water to those well owners, and ultimately, to move ahead with its broader goal of capping its coal ash in place — in some locations — rather than excavating it.

  • Under the new state standards, water with “acceptable” levels of hexavalent chromium would give a person a 1 in 700 lifetime risk of getting cancer. Emails obtained from DHHS show that state epidemiologists and toxicologists warned that the new standards were “outdated” and “unacceptable.”

  • DEQ assistant secretary Tom Reeder mislead the public by claiming that “every city in North Carolina” has hexavalent chromium above the screening level of 0.07 parts per billion. In fact, a large majority of samples show that the water contaminant remains below that level. The first sentence in the “OK to drink letter” received by hundreds of families across the state last week is factually incorrect.

“These new revelations about DEQ and DHHS overriding their own experts in order to dilute water quality standards proves that the McCrory administration is bending over backwards to protect a polluter, not the people,” said Gerrick Brenner, executive director at Progress North Carolina Action. “Gov. McCrory worked for Duke Energy for 29-years, and it looks like he still does.”

Hundreds of families across North Carolina have been living off bottled water for nearly a year after being told their water is undrinkable thanks to toxic chemicals linked to leaking Duke Energy coal ash pits nearby. However, Gov. McCrory continues to refuse to even publicly acknowledge these families’ concerns as his administration tries to sweep this public health crisis under the rug.


  1. Jo Northup's avatar
    Jo Northup
    | Permalink
    McCrory needs to start doing his job as governor of the PEOPLE of NC - he seems to forget that he doesn't work for Duke Energy any more!
  2. Deborah B Graham's avatar
    Deborah B Graham
    | Permalink
    I am one of the families that got this letter and I am very upset that my state is turning their back on the people and their own working professional staff at DHHS and our State Toxicologist, who with a team of about 30 people, worked for several months in 2015 to study data and is the most up-to-date information on water within our state. Now, a new director (appointed by Gov. McCrory 7 months ago) has changed this water standard and telling us TO DRINK THE WATER....My own health dept here in my county tells me, NOT TO DRINK THE WATER cause nothing changed with my water. A team of 30 people from two state depts worked on getting these levels in 2015 under CAMA ruling and this baby dr (not a toxicologist) is telling us to DRINK THE WATER....NO no no no no no no.....
  3. Deryl vonWilliams's avatar
    Deryl vonWilliams
    | Permalink
    Some of us in Vance County received a mixed message water warning letter. The top of the letter claims our water is safe to drink. However, the body of the letter warns those with infants and chronic illnesses to avoid the water. Test the water quality in all current and former school buildings. Perhaps this is one reason why those governing our town don't live here.
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