State’s top epidemiologist resigns in the midst of coal ash controversy

Published 5:25 pm Wednesday, August 10, 2016

By Josh Bergeron

In the midst of North Carolina’s coal ash controversy, the state’s top epidemiologist has announced her resignation because of a “false narrative” about health screening procedures for water wells.

In a letter sent to reporters Wednesday, Megan Davies, the Epidemiology Section chief at the Department of Health and Human Services, announced she was resigning from her position. Davies specifically referred to an op-ed signed by State Health Director Randall Williams and Assistant Secretary for Environmental Quality Tom Reeder. In the op-ed, Reeder and Williams said state toxicologist Ken Rudo reached “questionable and inconsistent scientific conclusions” when making decisions about the safety of water near coal ash ponds.

Davies called Williams’ and Reeder’s assessment a misrepresentation of the process used to decide whether water was safe to drink.

“The editorial signed by Randall Williams and Tom Reeder presents a false narrative of a lone scientist in NC DHHS acting independently to set health screening levels and make water use recommendations to well owners,” Davies writes in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Richard Brajer.

In her letter, Davies says scientists in the Department of Environmental Quality and Health and Human Services collaborated to decide exact levels that would deem water unsafe to drink.

Davies has served as the epidemiology section chief since 2009, according to her resume. She served as acting state health director for several months in 2015. When Williams began working at Health in Human Services in 2015, Davies said she briefed him on the process that state employees followed to decide what levels would make water unsafe to drink.

“Upon reading the open editorial yesterday evening, I can only conclude that the department’s leadership is fully aware that this document misinforms the public,” she states. “I cannot work for a department and an administration that deliberately misleads the public.”

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246