Town manager testifies about water contamination: ‘Residents are afraid of our drinking water’

WASHINGTON — Pittsboro, North Carolina is a quaint town of roughly 4,500 residents and it isn’t often in the limelight, but on Wednesday it became the focus of a hearing on Capitol Hill about the urgency of protecting our drinking water.

Pittsboro sits west of Raleigh and southeast of Greensboro.

According to the Town Manager, the growth and manufacturing in the neighboring cities and counties led to major concerns about the town’s water quality.

“My residents are afraid of our drinking water and the effects on their short and long-term health,” said Pittsboro, NC Town Manager Chris Kennedy in testimony before a House Subcommittee.

Kennedy told lawmakers about high levels of forever chemicals found in the water system.

Those chemicals, which can include perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), or perfluorinated alkylated substances (PFAS), often come from processing and manufacturing plants.

“In Pittsboro, the effects of PFOS, PFOA and 1,4 dioxane are among the worst in the country,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said the town is implementing advanced treatment measures in the water system to correct the problem but it has come at a huge cost for the small town.

Environmental experts called on Congress to enforce more preventative measures to better protect our drinking water.

Dr. Elizabeth Sutherland, the former Director of Science and Technology at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Water, called for a national system to proactively identify contaminants in our water.

“Currently, the country lacks a coordinated monitoring program that proactively looks for CECs (contaminants of emerging concern) in water bodies used for drinking water, swimming, fishing, and aquatic life protection,” said Sutherland. “We are currently suffering from a reactive system that waits for a public health or environmental crisis to occur before we begin monitoring and even consider controls.”

Witnesses said there are still many questions about how exactly these chemicals impact our health.

“There remain many, many gaps in our understanding,” said Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.).

“More study, research and development are needed to better understand the effects of these chemicals,” said Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC).

Kennedy urged Congress to enforce stricter regulations.

“We were simply subject to upstream contamination with little to no recourse to pursue a remedy,” said Kennedy. “As I share my story, I speak to support stricter regulations on emerging contaminants and forever chemicals.”