by Paul Blest
Recent media stories and editorials have given support to the questionable and inconsistent scientific conclusions reached by toxicologist Ken Rudo and have created unnecessary fear and confusion among North Carolinians who are concerned about the safety of their drinking water. Scientists do and should continuously question the status quo, and disagreement among them is to be expected. But both media and scientists should also be expected to recognize facts.This op-ed didn't sit well with Rudo's boss, state epidemiologist Megan Davies, who quit that position yesterday in a scathing resignation letter. "Upon reading the open editorial yesterday evening, I can only conclude that the Department's leadership is fully aware that this document misinforms the public," she writes. "I cannot work for a Department and an Administration that deliberately misleads the public."
At issue is how much Chromium 6 and Vanadium, both naturally occurring compounds that can also be found in coal ash, is considered safe in drinking water. Rudo doesn’t just disagree with other scientists on this subject – he has even contradicted himself. The federal safe drinking water standard for Chromium is 100 parts per billion and, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, “assumes that a measurement of total chromium is 100 percent Chromium 6." Rudo himself recognized this fact in November 2014 when he advised well owners near coal ash ponds that their water was safe to drink because “your well water meets federal drinking water standards."
Just a few months later, Rudo reversed course and advised the same well owners not to drink their water. Rather than relying on the federal standard he said was safe just months before, he used his own threshold, which was 1,400 times lower than the federal standard.
When pressed during a deposition, Rudo was not able to explain the inconsistencies in his scientific conclusions. Rudo’s unprofessional approach to this important matter does a disservice to public health and environmental protection in North Carolina. It doesn’t help that political special interest groups perpetuate his exaggerations and fuel alarm among citizens for their own purposes.
“It is important for North Carolina citizens to know that, while there are differences of opinion and we respect those differences, ensuring citizens’ safety and communicating are our top priorities. Throughout this process, we’ve provided full information to homeowners about the safety of their drinking water and have taken appropriate steps to reassure citizens who had been unduly alarmed. We remain committed to the health and safety of our citizens.”House Democratic leader Larry Hall called for an independent investigation earlier this week. We've asked for records relating to the McCrory administration's communications team with DHHS officials since August 1, but haven't heard back about that request or others yet. Considering the McCrory administration routinely breaks the law by not answering public records requests, we're not holding our breath.
3. Phil Berger waddles into the debate over Trump's "Second Amendment people comment" like only he can.
Copley has been charged with first-degree murder. You can donate to the GoFundMe Thomas's mom set up to raise money to help with burying her son here.