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DEQ urges feds to quicken lead contamination notices

Contractors dig a hole this week to replace a lead water service line in Flint, Mich.
Contractors dig a hole this week to replace a lead water service line in Flint, Mich. AP

North Carolina’s environment department, responding to the water crisis in Flint, Mich., urged the federal government Thursday to adopt the state’s standard for notifying consumers of lead or copper contamination.

The petition filed asked the Environmental Protection Agency to require notifications within 48 hours – the N.C. standard since 2006 – instead of the currently allowed 30 days.

Department of Environmental Quality secretary Donald van der Vaart said “we want the federal government to follow North Carolina’s example” by shortening the notification period for contaminants in tap water.

The petition also asked for three technical changes to the federal lead and copper rule under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Lead levels in Flint homes soared after the state switched its water source to river water that corroded lead service lines. Lead can cause brain damage and lower IQs in children.

DEQ and the state Department of Health and Human Services have come under fire in recent months for their own handling of contaminants found in private wells near Duke Energy ash ponds.

After urging nearly 400 well owners not to drink their water nearly a year ago, the departments rescinded the advisories this month. The agencies said similar levels of contamination are found in municipal water systems, but well owners criticized the reversal at recent hearings.

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051, @bhender

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