Gov. Eric Greitens' nominee to run the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services faced some tough questions Wednesday about his previous job in North Carolina.
Randall Williams was North Carolina's public health director for about a year and a half. Officials had said that hundreds of wells near Duke Energy power plants were deemed to be contaminated by what's left over when coal is burned. Williams, however, reversed a written warning to the well owners about those toxins.
Senator Gina Walsh, D-St. Louis County, asked Williams why he did that.
"I want these questions answered," Walsh said. "Clean water is a priority for everybody in this country, and after Flint, Michigan, I just want to make sure things like that do not happen in my state."
With a container of multivitamins as a prop, Williams answered the amount of toxins found were too miniscule to cause any harm.
"This is Centrum vitamins, and I'll pass it around, but these contain 10 micrograms of vanadium," he said. "We told these 300 well owners – we recommended they not drink their water for 0.3 (micrograms) … they would have to drink 33 liters of water a day just to get what's in this vitamin."
He added: "The Centers for Disease Control says you and I take in 10 to 20 micrograms just eating naturally-occurring foods that come from the ground every day."
Walsh argued that it was Williams' job to enforce state standards, regardless of whether he agreed with them.
"It's not the science that I'm upset with; I think what I'm upset with is that the state had set it at that level," she said. "So as the director, is it not your job to enforce your own rules?"
He answered,"I wasn't the director then, (but) when I came in and we had a year to look at that, we looked at the fact that the other 49 states were not at the same level, the (Environmental Protection Agency) wasn't at the same level."
In October, a Duke University study showed the toxin occurred more naturally than previously thought, The Associated Press reported.
Williams is expected to be confirmed along party lines next week.
You can listen to Williams' confirmation hearing below:
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