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North Carolina editorial roundup

June 21, 2017

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:


June 18

The Fayetteville Observe on drinking water:

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water ...

No, don’t cue the theme from “Jaws.” We’re talking about much smaller, quieter menaces lurking in the water of the Cape Fear River. But those threats to our health show us one good reason why it’s folly to dismantle the federal Environmental Protection Agency or to neuter this state’s environmental watchdogs.

We thought we were in for some good news about water quality in the Cape Fear River, which is the primary source of drinking water for Fayetteville and dozens of other communities from Lee County down to the river’s meeting with the Atlantic Ocean. Last week we heard that concentrations of a toxic chemical found extensively along the Cape Fear basin appear to be ebbing. The compound — 1,4-dioxane — had diminished significantly in samples drawn last year along the river basin. The monitoring stations stretch from the Triad, on the Haw River, down to Wilmington. Sites in Harnett and Cumberland counties are part of the system. The chemical is widely used in paint strippers, varnishes, dyes and even cosmetics. The EPA says long-term consumption of water containing significant concentrations of 1,4-dioxane can cause cancer. The regulator began requiring municipalities to test for it in treated water in 2013.

The problem with the chemical is that it’s prohibitively expensive for water-treatment plants to remove it from drinking water. So we’ve been drinking it, for — well, we don’t really know how many years. The state Division of Water Resources last year determined that it’s coming from four areas in the Triad, which is why the heaviest concentrations have been found in the Haw. State officials believe some industrial users of the chemical are dumping it into municipal sewer systems.

Sadly, years of budget cutting, abetted by recent legislative indifference to environmental protection, have left the state unable to quickly pinpoint sources of the pollution and take action to stop it. If it’s going away without state intervention, well, it’s our lucky day.

But now we learn that another chemical — the curiously named GenX — is getting into the Cape Fear River from the Chemours plant on the Cumberland-Bladen county line. The chemical is used in the production of Teflon, but Chemours — a DuPont spinoff company — says the leakage is coming from another chemical process at the plant, which creates GenX as a byproduct. The chemical is toxic, but state and federal regulators haven’t determined just how toxic. DuPont was slapped with a $16.5 million fine by the EPA for discharges of C8, GenX’s predecessor in Teflon production. DuPont and Chemours ceased production of C8 after they also settled a $671 million class-action suit with residents in the Ohio River Valley in February.

The chemical’s source is downstream from Fayetteville’s water-treatment plant and is no threat to any water systems north of Bladen County. But the surprising thing is that our regulators know it’s dangerous, but they don’t know how much. Health regulators in the Netherlands, where the compound is also found, have rated it “a suspected human carcinogen.”

That’s enough to stir serious concerns among the communities below Fayetteville that take their water from the Cape Fear. And it’s enough, as well, for us to urge state and federal lawmakers to maintain and expand funding to protect our water supplies from threats like this. It should always be safe to drink the water.

Online: http://www.fayobserver.com/


June 19

News & Record of Greensboro on keeping guns away from kids:

After the third Tennessee child in the month of May was wounded by an accidental, self-inflicted gunshot, Beth Joslin Roth unloaded her frustration.

“These kids are being injured and killed as a direct result of an adult’s irresponsible choice to leave a loaded firearm unsecured,” the policy director for The Safe Tennessee Project wrote on the group’s website.

“We know that our state has a disproportionate number of these incidents. We’ve asked our legislators to address the issue. They refuse. And kids keep getting shot.”

Indeed, lawmakers in the gun-friendly state weeks earlier had rejected a bill called MaKayla’s Law after an 8-year-old girl who was shot to death by an 11-year-old neighbor. The boy had found a loaded shotgun in an unlocked closet in his home. He was convicted as a delinquent juvenile and sentenced to remain in a youth-detention facility until he turns 19. No adult was charged for failing to secure the weapon.

MaKayla’s Law would have created such a penalty, but opponents say it threatens the right of gun owners to secure firearms, or not secure them, as they see fit. In Tennessee, if a child finds a gun and shoots someone, the responsibility is the child’s alone.

This is one area of law where North Carolina is far superior. Here, parents or guardians can be charged with a misdemeanor if a child in their care gains access to a firearm and uses it to injure or kill someone. Such charges are lodged with some consistency, according to an investigation by The Associated Press and The USA Today Network. Perhaps as a result, there are fewer such shootings here than in many states where laws are lacking or enforcement is lax.

Prosecutions in North Carolina have not done any harm to anyone’s constitutional right to keep and bear arms. The Constitution doesn’t convey a right to allow children to use guns to kill or injure other children.

Firearms are a huge problem for children in the U.S. Being shot is the second-leading cause of injury-related death among children, behind car crashes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A new study authored by CDC researcher Katherine A. Fowler says: “International studies indicate that 91 percent of firearm deaths of children aged 0 to 14 years among all high-income countries worldwide occur in the United States, making firearm injuries a serious pediatric and public health problem.”

The average annual number of fatal and nonfatal shootings of children exceeds 7,000. Fowler’s study found that accidental shootings declined slightly from 2002 to 2014. State laws like North Carolina’s could be responsible for this important progress. Homicides are also down. The striking increase has come from gun-related suicides, which are tracked for children 10 and older. Too many adolescents who are going through a crisis attempt to kill themselves. They are often successful if they have access to firearms.

Even a toddler can pick up a gun and pull the trigger. Why would anyone let that happen? Kids and guns are a terrible combination.

Online: http://www.news-record.com/


June 19

Winston-Salem Journal on preserving public notices:

An effort in the legislature, Senate Bill 343, would eventually eliminate the requirement that local governments publish legal notices of their affairs in newspapers. The state House should kill this bill pushed by Sen. Trudy Wade of Guilford County.

Supporters of this bill that has passed the Senate say they want to save money by cutting costs, shifting public notices to government websites. But elderly and poor citizens who don’t go on the Internet would lose out. They’d miss print announcements of key government meetings making decisions that are crucial to their lives.

On this page, we’ve been upfront on our vested interest in this matter: Our newspaper and many others in this state are paid significant money by local governments to publish these notices. But this fact remains: If our papers didn’t play this role, many vulnerable taxpayers would be left in the dark about many meetings of local governments that their tax dollars pay for, as well as the decisions and taxes to which those meetings might lead.

Bill supporters contend that local government websites will pick up the slack. But many citizens either lack the money or the expertise to access those sites. And even for the computer-friendly, government websites often don’t generate the traffic that newspaper sites do.

The bill would have this change start with a two-year pilot program. The Journal’s Richard Craver and our sister paper, The News & Record of Greensboro, reported that the House is working on a revised version of the bill that would establish the pilot program in four counties to try out the idea that local governments can provide sufficient notice themselves.

“The counties would be Guilford, Durham, Forsyth and Buncombe — notably leaving out Wake and Mecklenburg” the Greensboro paper said in an editorial. “This practice run, if approved, likely will result in less-informed citizens.”

The state House should kill this bill.

Online: http://www.journalnow.com/