NC Toxicologist: Water Near Duke’s Dumps Not Safe to Drink

North Carolina’s top public health official acted unethically and possibly illegally by telling residents living near Duke Energy coal ash pits that their well water is safe to drink when it’s contaminated with a chemical known to cause cancer, a state toxicologist said in sworn testimony.

The Associated Press obtained a full copy of the 220-page deposition given last month by toxicologist Ken Rudo as part of a lawsuit. The nation’s largest electricity company has asked a federal judge to seal the record, claiming its public disclosure would potentially prejudice jurors.

Rudo’s boss, state public health director Dr. Randall Williams, in March 2016 reversed earlier warnings that had told the affected residents not to drink their water. The water is contaminated with cancer-causing hexavalent chromium at levels many times higher than Rudo had determined is safe.

“The state health director’s job is to protect public health,” testified Rudo, who has been the state’s toxicologist for nearly 30 years. “And in this specific instance, the opposite occurred. He knowingly told people that their water was safe when we knew it wasn’t.”

As part of his deposition, Rudo said hexavalent chromium would cause an increased lifetime risk of causing tumors in those who drink it, especially for pregnant women, infants and children under age of 12.

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