McCrory continues criticism of state scientists over coal ash contamination warnings
Gov. Pat McCrory for the first time Thursday personally addressed allegations by two state scientists who have said administration officials provided a "false narrative" to the public over how top administrators oversaw the development and then reversed warnings regarding well water potentially contaminated by coal ash.Posted — Updated
"We basically have a disagreement among scientists," McCrory said after a ribbon cutting at a new section of highway near Fayetteville. "One group of scientists, which I support, believe the public ought to get all the information about the water, not limited information and one opinion."
The other group of scientists, who McCrory did not name, are personified by Ken Rudo, a state toxicologist at the Department of Health and Human Services, and Davies, who publicly shared her resignation letter Wednesday.
Rudo has been at the center of the controversy for more than a week after an environmental group suing the state and Duke Energy included a large portion of a deposition he gave in the lawsuit in a public court filing. In that sworn testimony, Rudo suggested that top administration officials, including state Health Director Dr. Randall Williams, acted against scientific evidence when they rolled back warnings to well owners who live near coal ash pits that their water may have unsafe levels of hexavalent chromium.
That account has been disputed by previously released depositions by Davies and even Williams himself, who both testified under oath that DHHS and DEQ scientists developed safety thresholds for the potentially cancer-causing element.
"We're providing all the information necessary to ensure that we have safe drinking water, and the public knows exactly what the value of that drinking water is," McCrory said.
Some people who live near coal ash ponds rallied outside the Executive Mansion in Raleigh on Thursday, seeking more information from the McCrory administration.
"All we want is clean water, and how is that even possible now?" asked Jennifer Worrell, who lives near Duke's H.F. Lee Plant in Goldsboro. "There's a lot of shady things going on. Dr. Rudo and Miss Megan have stood up for us when nobody else would."
Deborah Graham, who lives near Duke's Buck Steam Station in Salisbury, accused the McCrory administration of "confusing, deceitful, inappropriate and unprofessional" conduct toward her and other residents, as well as Rudo and Davies.
"We want answers, and we haven’t been able to get answers in 16 months," Graham said. "I feel like it’s a cover up."
"They sent the letters out that the water is contaminated. So, how all of the sudden is the water not contaminated?" asked Lisa Hughes, who has lived her entire life in the shadow of Duke's Roxboro Plant. "It’s almost shameful. I’ve got a grave concern about this: You have young children out there drinking this water."
"I should not have to be living like this, nor my family nor my community. We don't deserve this," Worrell said.
McCrory's administration has also said that Rudo's statements in depositions and interviews that the governor participated by phone in an April 2, 2015, meeting that involved McCrory communications director Josh Ellis and DHHS spokeswoman Kendra Gerlach were not true, essentially accusing Rudo of lying under oath.
"The only thing I can tell you on the record is we stand by everything we've said on this," Ellis said in an interview Thursday.
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