2.3 million North Carolinians rely on wells for their drinking water, but some 20 percent of the wells surveyed in the study had manganese levels that exceeded the EPA's recommended limit. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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By Gabe Rivin

A bill that received final approval in the General Assembly and will make several changes to the way county health departments permit water wells is on the way to Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk for signature.

Some 2.3 million North Carolinians rely on wells for their drinking water. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

House Bill 44 affects numerous areas of local government, including overgrown-vegetation ordinances and requirements for signs. It would also change county health departments’ criteria for permitting water wells.

In North Carolina, roughly 30 percent of residents rely on private water wells, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. Residents’ well water does not face the same health requirements as water from public systems, a potential threat that concerns some public health researchers.

HB 44 would touch on several health issues related to water wells:

  • Can’t stay off the grid with contaminated water. Under HB 44, residents could still use private water wells in areas that offer public water services. But a local government could force residents to switch, given a few conditions. These conditions include the government’s finding that a well’s water is contaminated and that the well has failed and can’t be repaired.
  • Keeping private and public services separate. The bill also would allow residents to use both well water and public water on their properties. But residents would not be allowed to send their non-potable well water to public sewers.
  • Standard forms. In the past, local governments could petition state regulators to use locally tailored permitting forms; state regulators could allow the use of the forms, so long as they found that the forms would reduce threats to the public’s health. With HB 44, that option would be eliminated and local governments would have to use standard, state-developed forms.

 

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Gabe Rivin

Gabe is our former environmental health reporter from 2014-2016. He is a former editor of The Cooperative Business Journal, and a former reporter for Inside Washington Publishers, where he covered federal...