Many Still Drinking Contaminated Water as State Officials Attack Public Health Scientist

For Immediate Release
August 11, 2016

Alliance of Carolinians Together (ACT) Against Coal Ash
Hope Taylor, Clean Water for NC, (919) 401-9600
Deborah Graham, Dukeville Resident, (704) 433-1714
Bobby Jones, Down East Coal Ash Coalition, (919) 394-0727

NC Residents Speak Out: “It’s State Appointed Officials Spreading Fear, Distrust and Confusion, NOT Dr. Rudo!”
Press conference at 11 AM, 200 N Blount St. to protest defaming by DHHS and DEQ officials against scientists, scientific process and the well users of NC

Despite repeated efforts by the Governor’s staff and appointed officials from the Departments of Environmental Quality and Health and Human Services to marginalize scientific considerations and discredit key public health scientists, well owners who’ve actually gotten reports of contamination by likely coal ash related chemicals and health advisories from State Toxicologist Dr. Kenneth Rudo and know about the painstaking process to develop the health advisory levels are clear about who they trust. And now, after those scientists have been barraged with insults and disinformation by the Tom Reeder and Randall Williams, Dr. Megan Davies, State Epidemiologist, has acted with painful integrity, resigning, saying that she can’t work in an agency that deliberately misleads the public.

Like many neighbors living close to Duke Energy coal ash pits, Deborah Graham is furious with State Health Director Randall Williams and Tom Reeder of the Dept. of Environmental Quality, who have been very aggressive in discrediting not only Dr. Rudo and the science behind the health advisories, but the impacted residents and public interest groups advocating for them. “Maybe the misleading, untruth, questionable, inconsistent, unnecessary fear, confusion & embarrassment to our state comes from within the very department and leadership under Dr. Randall Williams,” says Graham. “ I again ask that he RESIGN as the STATE HEALTH DIRECTOR for his mis-handling of coal ash contamination as he has knowingly put my health & your health at risk & violated CAMA law by sending out the ‘ok to drink’ letter.” Graham has organized bottled water donations for dozens of impacted well owners in her own and other communities.

In July of 2016, after Sue Fife’s well test showed hexavalent chromium above the health advisory level, she was visited by Dr. Rudo. Fife, who lives about a half mile from one of several enormous Roxboro Steam Station coal ash pits, learned of Rudo’s concerns about the risks associated with using her well water. He explained that hexavalent chromium could cause cancer and that the best available science indicated she should protect herself by not drinking or cooking with the water. He did not say that Duke Energy had caused the contamination, but regretted not being able to supply her with a written health advisory, saying “they’ve tied my hands.”

Fife would have had to pay for the well water tests herself, but was able to get assistance from a small Coal Ash Contamination Relief Fund, created by several non-profits working to assist people on wells near coal ash sites. “There are many folks, even within ½ mile, who have not been tested yet, and no one is getting bottled water unless they were tested last year. Some of my neighbors have called Duke Energy and explained that our water is just as contaminated as wells that were tested last year, but they have refused to give us bottled water. It’s a tremendous burden to deal with the bottled water, but it’s the LEAST we deserve.”

Hope Taylor, a former biochemist and public health researcher who directs nonprofit Clean Water for North Carolina, is outraged by the unfounded accusations of Dr. Rudo for “unprofessional” or “scientifically inconsistent” behavior. “It’s clear,” she says, “that officials like Reeder and Williams don’t even know or respect regulations and a scientific approach that have existed since long before the current coal ash scandal burst open with the 2014 spill on the Dan River. We’ve worked with communities with a wide range of well contamination problems since at least 2003, and we know how critical the health advisories are to give well users a chance to protect themselves. We know most contamination happens through no fault of the well owners, and that many of them have no resources to get a safe, replacement water supply.”

Jennifer Worrells, who lives close to the coal ash around the HF Lee plant in Goldsboro, adds “People were sick and dying, we knew something was wrong with the water in our community but nobody would help us. In desperation I contacted the governor’s office and the door was slammed in my face. Finally, I got in contact with Dr. Rudo and he said “are you drinking the water, don’t drink the water.”

“Later, when it seemed that everybody in Raleigh was against us I tried to get in contact with Dr. Rudo They said he was on administrative leave. I was so desperate and in need of help that I left this message on his home phone, “Dr. Rudo please help us, you are the only one that can help us. You are the only one that seem to care, you are the only one that has the facts.”

Bobby Jones of the DownEast Coalition around the HF Lee plant points out: “There are many folks, even within ½ mile, whose wells have not been tested yet. Hundreds of families around coal ash sites are probably still drinking contaminated water, simply because state agencies have chosen to hide the problem and turn vicious attacks on scientists who are working hard to help protect public health.”


The Alliance of Carolinians Together Against Coal Ash is a powerful coalition of North Carolinians impacted or potentially impacted by Duke Energy’s coal ash. Learn more at

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