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DEQ directs Chemours to expand its interim sampling and drinking water plan for the Lower Cape Fear River area

RALEIGH – After a comprehensive review, the Department of Environmental Quality has sent a letter today directing Chemours to expand the scope and detail of its proposed interim sampling and drinking water plan for New Hanover, Brunswick, Columbus, and Pender counties.

“The interim plan is insufficient and does not include the necessary steps to adequately determine the extent of Chemours’ contamination in the downstream communities,” said DEQ Secretary Elizabeth S. Biser. “Chemours must contact residents directly, sample more wells, and proceed more quickly to address contaminated drinking water.”

The interim sampling plan was submitted on February 1, in response to the department’s November 3, 2021 Notice. In that notice, DEQ determined that Chemours is responsible for groundwater contamination in New Hanover County and potentially Pender, Columbus, and Brunswick counties. DEQ directed Chemours to expand the off-site assessment required under the 2019 Consent Order to determine the extent of the contamination, and conduct sampling of private drinking water wells to identify residents who may be eligible for replacement drinking water supplies.

DEQ has identified seven areas in which the interim sampling and drinking water plan is deficient, and is requiring Chemours to submit a revised plan within 30 days. The revisions must include, but are not limited to:

  • Expanding eligibility criteria of private wells to be sampled.
  • Starting sampling within 45 days.
  • Directly contacting eligible private well owners.
  • Using a data-driven approach to broaden private well sampling, not limited to 200 per county and not limited to residents who have requested sampling.
  • Including other property types for sampling where a private well is used as the primary source of drinking water, including schools, day care centers, churches, mobile home parks and others.
  • Providing bottled water to impacted residents within three days of receipt of sampling results and providing replacement drinking water supplies as required in Paragraphs 19 and 20 of the Consent Order.
  • Describing a proposed step-out or other approach to drinking water sampling based on the received results.

The response letter and related documents are available online. Residents in the four counties of the lower Cape Fear River basin can request well sampling by calling 910-678-1100.

Rabies detected in bobcat; protect your pets

An important message from Pender County Health Department:
Pender County Health Department has been notified that a bobcat has tested positive for rabies. While the animal was captured in a sparsely populated area off Highway 421, residents are encouraged to avoid contact with wildlife. Do not feed feral cats, dogs, or wildlife. Anyone that sees a wild animal acting strangely or aggressive toward people should contact the Pender County Sheriff’s Department, Animal Control staff at (910) 259-1349.
When rabies is detected in wildlife, it is very important that pet owners assure their pet has a current rabies vaccination. Rabies vaccinations are available at the Pender County Animal Shelter for $5. For details call 910 259-1484.

State to host public information session on Nov. 16 about PFAS/GenX at Chemours’ Fayetteville Works facility

RALEIGH – The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will host a community information session remotely via teleconference Tuesday, November 16, about current actions to prevent and remediate PFAS contamination at the Chemours Fayetteville Works Facility. The public is invited to participate by phone or online.

Topics will include updates from DEQ’s air, water and waste management divisions about emission reduction requirements, upcoming permit actions, drinking water well sampling results and replacement water updates. Officials from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services will provide an overview of knowledge about potential health effects and how to reduce exposure.

Event title:  GenX community information meeting

Date and Time: Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021 at 6 p.m.

Phone:  US TOLL +1-415-655-0003, Access code: 2427 524 0753

WebEx Link:
https://ncdenrits.webex.com/ncdenrits/j.php?MTID=m20e1854b10e617d07b77546e228cf776

Event Password: 1234

Following the presentations by DEQ and DHHS representatives, community members who pre-registered will have an opportunity to ask questions. There will also be an opportunity to ask questions through a chat feature in the web conferencing software.

More information about the state’s investigation can be found at: https://deq.nc.gov/news/hot-topics/genx-investigation. Information for residents can be found at: https://deq.nc.gov/news/key-issues/genx-investigation/genx-information-residents.

Health officials urge North Carolinians to get vaccinated for flu as COVID-19 cases remain high

North Carolina to Require Vaccine Verification for State Employees, Urges Other Government Agencies and Private Employers to do the Same

RALEIGH: Today, Governor Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. announced that the state government would begin verifying the vaccination status of its workers. Employees not vaccinated are required to wear a mask and be tested at least once a week. Today’s announcement comes as North Carolina’s latest upswing in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is driven by unvaccinated North Carolinians.

“Until more people get the vaccine, we will continue living with the very real threat of serious disease, and we will continue to see more dangerous and contagious variants like Delta,” said Governor Cooper.

NCDHHS updated guidance encourages private sector businesses to, at a minimum, verify vaccination status for their workers as well. The requirement for state government employees applies to cabinet agencies and is included in Executive Order 224.

“There is only one way out of this pandemic and that is vaccination. Our trends are accelerating at an alarmingly fast rate and the highest rates of viral spread are happening in areas with low vaccination rates and among those who are not fully vaccinated,” said Secretary Cohen. “If you are already vaccinated, I call on you to urge your unvaccinated family and friends to get their shot now. It is not an understatement to say that you will save lives by doing so.”

The NCDHHS updated guidance reminds unvaccinated people that they need to continue practicing the three Ws – wear a mask in all indoor public settings, wait six feet apart in all public settings and wash hands often. In addition, unvaccinated people should not gather with other unvaccinated people who do not live with them. If they do, they should stay outside and keep 6 feet of distance. In addition, unvaccinated people should not travel.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new mask guidance this week based on levels of transmission in communities. The new maps designate counties as areas of low (blue), moderate (yellow), substantial (orange), or high (red) transmission. Moving forward, everyone in a red or orange county in North Carolina, including those who have been vaccinated, should wear a mask in public indoor settings.

Additionally, in accordance with the updated CDC guidance, all K-12 schools should require universal masking, regardless of vaccination status. NCDHHS is updating its guidance for schools to align with this recommendation.

To date, North Carolina has administered nearly 9.8 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 57 percent of the adult population fully vaccinated. 61 percent of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, including 86 percent of North Carolinians 65 and over.

Learn more about the state’s vaccine distribution at myspot.nc.gov (English) or Vacunate.nc.gov (Spanish). Details on the Your Shot at $1 Million Summer Cash Drawing can be found at covid19.ncdhhs.gov/summervaxcash. Use NCDHHS’ online tool Find a Vaccine Location to find a nearby vaccine site. Call the state’s COVID-19 vaccine hotline at 888-675-4567.

Read the Executive Order.

Read a Frequently Asked Questions document.

NC Gov. Cooper lifts many COVID-19 restrictions

State to lift gathering limits, social distancing requirements in all settings and indoor mask mandate for most settings

RALEIGH: Today, Governor Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. shared an update on the state’s COVID-19 progress. Throughout the pandemic, state officials have taken a data-driven approach and have been guided by the science in making decisions. Following yesterday’s guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that fully vaccinated individuals can safely do most activities without wearing a mask or the need to social distance from others, the state will remove its indoor mask mandate for most settings. Additionally, the state will lift all mass gathering limits and social distancing requirements. These changes are now in effect as of 1:30 PM today.

“We can take this step today because the science shows our focus on getting people vaccinated is working,” said Governor Cooper. “But to keep moving forward – and to make sure that we keep saving lives – more people need to get vaccinated.”

The ability to lift restrictions sooner than anticipated following the CDC’s guidance shows the importance of vaccinating all North Carolinians. As of this week, even more people can get vaccinated. Younger teens between 12 and 15 can now get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Young people are vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus, just like everyone else, and the percent of COVID-19 cases in North Carolina children 17 and under has been increasing.

North Carolina continues to focus on distributing vaccines quickly and equitably. To date, the state has administered over 7.7 million doses. 51% percent of those 18 and up are at least partially vaccinated, and 46% percent of those 18 and up have been fully vaccinated.

“I am so proud of the incredible progress we have made in beating back this pandemic,” said Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. “Vaccines continue to be incredibly effective at protecting individuals from this terrible virus. And as more and more people get vaccinated, the results show in our stable metrics with lower cases, lower hospitalizations, and lower deaths.”

In accordance with the new CDC guidance, there will still be certain settings where masks and other safety measures will be required. Masks will still be required in child care, schools and camps as most children are either not yet vaccinated or are not yet eligible to be vaccinated. Everyone, including people who are fully vaccinated will still be required to wear a mask in certain settings such as public transportation, health care settings like hospitals, doctor’s offices and long-term care settings like nursing homes, and certain congregate settings like correctional facilities and homeless shelters.

NCDHHS will continue to have strong public health recommendations for individuals to continue to protect one another until more people are vaccinated. People who are not vaccinated should wear a mask and maintain distance in all indoor public settings and in outdoor settings when they can’t maintain six feet of distance.

Masks are strongly recommended for everyone at large crowded indoor events like sporting events and live performances.

NCDHHS recommends public-facing businesses post signage reminding guests to social distance and wear a face covering if they are not fully vaccinated; remind employees to self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19; have a plan to immediately isolate and remove sick workers, and clean high-touch surfaces once a day. Businesses may choose to continue to require that their customers wear masks.
The Department of Health and Human Services will also continue to expand strategies to reach people who have not yet gotten vaccinated.

Information on the state’s vaccine distribution is available at YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov (English) or Vacunate.nc.gov (Spanish). People can find nearby vaccine providers using NCDHHS’ online tool, Find a Vaccine Location. The state’s COVID-19 vaccine hotline number is 888-675-4567.

Read the Executive Order.

Read a FAQ about today’s Order.

COVID vaccinations available

Pender County Health Department is offering the Moderna vaccine on Tuesdays in Burgaw and Thursdays at the Hampstead annex. Appointments are available online at pendercountync.gov or you can walk in starting at 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

A snapshot of guidance from Executive Order 209

Here is a synopsis of  guidance from North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper in Executive Order 209

  • Mass Gathering Limits are set at no more than 100 people indoors and 200 people outdoors. · In publicly accessible indoor facilities, the Mass Gathering limit applies per room of the facility.
  • Mass Gathering limits include a requirement of social distancing, defined as – maintaining a minimum of 6-feet between individuals who are not members of the same family. Wearing of Masks and Social Distancing
  • Wear a Face Covering over the nose and mouth inside all public settings such as grocery stores, pharmacies, or other retail or public-serving businesses.
  • Although not required, people who have not been fully vaccinated should wear a Face Covering outdoors when they cannot maintain at least six (6) feet of social distancing from non-household members.
  • All individuals should wear Face Coverings outdoors in crowded, dense, and higher-risk settings.
  • Maintain at least six (6) feet social distancing from other individuals, with the exception of family or household members. Meeting Facilities and Conference Centers
  • The facility must limit Guests to fifty percent (50%) of the stated fire capacity for each indoor and outdoor space controlled by the facility. For rooms or spaces without a stated fire capacity, the limit on Guests is twelve (12) per one thousand (1000) square feet, rounded up.
  • Social Distancing Required. The facility must limit the number of Guests in the space so that groups can stay six (6) feet apart. Livestock Shows (Under guidance provided in EO-209 for Arenas)
  • Guests must be in seats except to enter, leave, use amenities, visit the restroom, and obtain food or drink.
  • The facility must limit Guests to fifty percent (50%) of the stated fire capacity for each indoor and outdoor space controlled by the facility. For rooms or spaces without a stated fire capacity, the limit on Guests is twelve (12) per one thousand (1000) square feet, rounded up.
  • Social Distancing Required. The facility must limit the number of Guests in the space so that groups can stay six (6) feet apart. Livestock Sales (Under guidance provided in EO-209 for Retail events)
  • Occupancy is limited to 100% of Stated Fire Capacity.
  • For spaces without a stated fire capacity, no more than twenty-four (24) Guests for every one thousand (1000) square feet of 16 the location’s total square footage, including the parts of the location that are not accessible to Guests).
  • Limit the number of Guests in the store so that everyone can stay six (6) feet apart.

Previous guidance on facility cleaning, documentation of participation for contact tracing, and quarantine of sick individuals continue to be in effect, until further notice. The requirement, that all participants/spectators should have a temperature check prior to entry of the program/event facility, is no longer in effect. In addition, pre-entry/registration for events is no longer a requirement.

NC Attorney General Josh Stein and the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners unveil historic agreement in the fight against the opioid epidemic

RALEIGH — Attorney General Josh Stein and the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners today unveiled a historic agreement to fight the opioid epidemic. The agreement governs how North Carolina would use the proceeds of any future national settlement or bankruptcy resolution with drug distributors Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen and opioid manufacturers Johnson & Johnson and Purdue Pharma. These potential settlements and resolutions could bring as much as $850 million to North Carolina over an 18-year period to support state and local efforts to address the epidemic.

“The opioid epidemic, in recent years, has taken the lives of more than 16,000 North Carolinians, torn families apart, and ravaged communities from the mountains to the coast,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “These companies helped to create and fuel this epidemic with irresponsible marketing and a lack of oversight – and they must be held accountable to help clean up this mess. I am working hard, along with fellow attorneys general across the country, to do just that. Should we prevail, today’s agreement between the counties and the state is an important step toward getting much-needed resources to communities across North Carolina as they work to address the epidemic and its aftermath.”

“The opioid epidemic has had a devastating impact on all 100 counties. We all know someone personally affected by this heartbreaking crisis, and local governments remain on the front lines of this epidemic, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. This historic agreement will ensure potential opioid settlement funds coming into North Carolina get to people in need quickly and effectively. I, along with our NCACC Board of Directors, urge all counties and our municipal partners to sign this groundbreaking agreement as soon as possible,” said NCACC President Ronnie Smith, Chair, Martin County Board of Commissioners. The agreement is endorsed by the NCACC Board of Directors, which adopted a resolution in support of the agreement urging all 100 counties and municipal partners to sign on to it without delay.

“The increase in opioid overdoses we saw during the COVID pandemic is a stark reminder that we need strategic, long-term investments to fight the disease of addiction,” said Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. “This agreement provides needed funding for local partners to implement strategies in North Carolina’s Opioid Action Plan that prevent overdoses and save lives.”

To maximize funds flowing to North Carolina communities on the front lines of the opioid epidemic, the agreement would direct settlement funds as follows:

  • 15 percent to the state, which the General Assembly would appropriate to address the epidemic.
  • 80 percent to local governments, including all 100 counties and 17 municipalities.
  • An additional five percent to an incentive fund to encourage counties and large- and medium-size municipalities to sign on to the agreement.

In addition, the agreement offers a high level of transparency into how local governments will use the funds, including special revenue funds subject to audit, annual financial and impact reports, and a public dashboard showing how they are using settlement funds to address the epidemic.

The state of North Carolina, 76 counties, and eight municipalities are engaged in litigation with or investigations of opioid manufacturers and distributors. All 100 counties – along with large- and medium-size municipalities – will now have the opportunity to review and sign on to the agreement.

Click here to access a one-pager on this topic.

Click here to access an FAQ on this topic.

Click here to access the memorandum of agreement.

Gov. Cooper issues Executive Order to relax the state’s outdoor mask mandate and ease mass gathering limits

State continues to strive to get two thirds of adults at least partially vaccinated

RALEIGH: Today, Governor Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. gave an update on the state’s current data, trends and vaccination progress. As the state’s metrics and key indicators remain stable, Governor Cooper also signed an Executive Order outlining safety measures for the month of May. Executive Order No. 209 will take effect April 30 and is set to expire June 1. As more North Carolinians get vaccinated and adhere to safety protocols over the course of the next month, the state anticipates lifting more restrictions on June 1.

“While our numbers are mostly stable, we have more work to do to beat back this pandemic,” said Governor Cooper. “Let’s work hard in May and get as many people vaccinated as we can before summer gets here.”

Under the new Executive Order, masks will still be required indoors but are no longer mandated outdoors. Masks are still strongly recommended outdoors by NC DHHS in crowded areas and higher risk settings where social distancing is difficult.

Executive Order No. 209 will also increase mass gathering capacity limits. The number of people who may gather indoors will increase from 50 to 100 and the number of people who may gather outdoors will increase from 100 to 200. Occupancy limits currently in place will remain the same.

“Fortunately, we now have enough vaccine for everyone. They are free and widely available across the state. In many places you don’t need appointment,” said Secretary Cohen. “For those who have questions, I encourage you to go to YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov to learn about the benefits of the vaccines, potential temporary reactions you might experience, and answers to common questions.”

North Carolina continues to focus on distributing vaccines quickly and equitably. To date, the state has administered over 7 million doses. 48.7% percent of those 18 and up are at least partially vaccinated, and 39.2% percent of those 18 and up have been fully vaccinated.

State health officials are continuing to monitor COVID-19 and its more contagious variants in North Carolina, which is why it is important to continue to follow the state’s mask mandate and continue to practice safety precautions, including the Three Ws—wear a mask, wait 6 feet apart, and wash hands often.

Dr. Cohen also provided an update on North Carolina’s data and trends.

Trajectory in COVID-Like Illness (CLI) Surveillance Over 14 Days
• North Carolina’s syndromic surveillance trend for COVID-like illness is level.

Trajectory of Confirmed Cases Over 14 Days
• North Carolina’s trajectory of cases is level.

Trajectory in Percent of Tests Returning Positive Over 14 Days
• North Carolina’s trajectory in percent of tests returning positive is level.

Trajectory in Hospitalizations Over 14 Days
• North Carolina’s trajectory of hospitalizations is level.

In addition to monitoring these metrics, the state continues to respond to virus spread in testing, tracing and prevention.

Read Executive Order No. 209.

Read Frequently Asked Questions.

View the slides from today’s briefing.

 

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