State Epidemiologist Megan Davies has resigned her position, effectively immediately. It is the latest twist in an ongoing dispute over coal ash contamination of home water wells and an inter-departmental fight within Governor Pat McCrory's administration.
In her resignation letter, Davies outlined the reason for her departure:
"I cannot work for a department and an administration that deliberately misleads the public," Davies wrote.
Davies is referring to an editorial, written by Tom Reeder, Assistant Secretary for the Environment at the Department of Environmental Quality, and Randall Williams, Deputy Secretary for Health Services at the Department of Health and Human Services, that sharply criticized Ken Rudo, a toxicologist who worked for Davies.
"Rudo's unprofessional approach to this important matter does a disservice to public health and environmental protection in North Carolina," Reeder and Williams wrote.
On Thursday, Davies called the editorial "insulting" and said what outraged her was that Reeder and Williams questioned the process and Rudo's integrity.
"Those two people sent out a document that conveyed that a lone scientist was behaving independently on his own whim when people’s health and lives were affected by those recommendations," she said.
In a statement, DHHS Secretary Rick Brajer said he accepted Davies' resignation and added: "Throughout this process, we've provided full information to homeowners about the safety of their drinking water and have taken appropriate steps to reassure citizens who had been unduly alarmed. We remain committed to the health and safety of our citizens."
DHHS and DEQ did not immediately respond to a WUNC request for comment.
In a lawsuit brought by environmental groups against Duke Energy, Rudo had testified the he was called to a meeting at Governor Pat McCrory's office. In Rudo's testimony, he says McCrory called into the meeting, during which they discussed how to communicate the elevated levels of toxic elements to well owners who live near Duke Energy's coal ash basins. McCrory's office denied that the governor called in, and accused Rudo of lying under oath.
In her resignation letter, Davies explained further how the process followed standard operating procedure.
Zack Moore, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and medical epidemiologist, has assumed the role of acting epidemiology section chief and state epidemiologist.
Host Frank Stasio talked with Dr. Davies on The State of Things.