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Northam nixes layoffs of Virginia drinking water monitors

December 19, 2021 GMT

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is reversing a decision by his administration’s health commissioner to lay off 14 state employees who monitor drinking water, the governor’s press secretary said Saturday.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that the announcement came three days after the newspaper reported on the planned layoffs of 11 full-time and three part-time employees in the state Department of Health’s Office of Drinking Water.

“The Governor has directed the Department of Health and the Department of Planning and Budget to fix the Office of Drinking Water’s budget shortfall now so that no one will lose their positions — this office and these individuals are too important to do otherwise,” Northam’s press secretary, Alena Yarmosky, said in an email.

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The layoffs had been scheduled to take effect on Jan. 9.

The Virginia Rural Water Association wrote a letter to the state that the layoffs would be “reckless and irresponsible” and would have “lasting effects” on the state’s ability to monitor drinking water systems.

Yarmosky said the governor’s office learned about the planned layoffs from The Times-Dispatch’s reporting.

“Within days of the Governor’s office first hearing of this issue, it has been resolved,” Yarmosky wrote.