With just a month to go before the North Carolina General Assembly’s short session, Gov. Roy Cooper got an early start on what will be one of the biggest issues of the 2018 session — how to respond to the water pollution issues raised by the GenX pollution problem in the Cape Fear region.

On April 10, Cooper released his recommendations for $14.5 million in funding to address water quality issues in North Carolina. Cooper’s plan calls for $7 million for 39 new positions at the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to conduct water testing and identify pollution in water and sediment. The request would also support new equipment and facility improvements, money to reform the water pollution permit approval process, facility improvements and more environmental epidemiologists.

Cooper is expected to release his entire proposed budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year in early May, before the legislature convenes on May 16.

Earlier this year, the state House and Senate could not agree on more modest investments to respond to the GenX issue. The House proposed $2.3 million in new equipment and staff for DEQ, while the Senate offered $2.4 million in one-time funding to clear backlogged water pollution permits and a study of GenX-related air pollution.

The North Carolina Coastal Federation’s recommendations for state response to the GenX issue include more rigorous enforcement of the federal Clean Water Act by DEQ. The federation has also supported new funding at DEQ for GenX response and enforcement, as well as the creation of a statewide “alarm system” of water testing for emerging contaminants like GenX to prevent the long-term public consumption of polluted water.