Press Release: Duke Energy Request to Raise Energy Bills Would Hurt Working Families, Limit Energy-Efficiency in Western NC

Press Release: Duke Energy Request to Raise Energy Bills Would Hurt Working Families, Limit Energy-Efficiency in Western NC

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Duke Energy Request to Raise Energy Bills Would Hurt Working Families, Limit Energy-Efficiency in Western NC

Media Contact:

Eliza Stokes

Advocacy & Communications Associate, MountainTrue

E: eliza@mountaintrue.org; P: 828-258-8737 ext. 218

Jan. 10, 2018

Macon County– On Tuesday, January 16, residents of Western North Carolina will have the opportunity to gather at the Macon County Courthouse in Franklin to voice their opinions about Duke Energy’s proposed rate hike. Duke Energy Carolinas, which serves 2.2 million customers across the state and much of Western North Carolina, has requested approval to raise residential energy rates by 16.7% and to increase their revenue by approximately $647 million. The rate hike is being requested soon after the company rose energy rates by 5% in 2013.

Public interest advocates call the request an attempt to pass Duke’s coal ash clean up costs to the public, which they say would discourage energy-saving measures and be especially harmful for low-income families. The North Carolina Utilities Commission, the body that decides whether or not to approve Duke’s request, will receive the public testimony.

The rate hike would increase a typical residential customer’s bill by $18.72 per month, and would raise energy bills for residential customers more than for industrial and commercial customers. The rate hike would also include a 66% increase of the base energy charge from $11.80 to $17.79, discouraging energy saving measures by customers.

“Working families in Western North Carolina know that when you’re struggling to pay the bills and the mortgage and to put food on the table, you learn to be careful about how you use electricity,” says Robert E. Smith, a former Board Chair of the Jackson-Macon Conservation Alliance. “But with Duke Energy’s new mandatory fee, all families would be charged a minimum of $17.79 per month – about $213 per year – even if they never turned their lights on.”

Public interest advocates believe this rate hike would leave residents of North Carolina’s far western counties, many of whom already face a harsh economic reality, with another unneeded financial burden. Counties including Jackson, Macon, Swain, Graham, Cherokee, and Clay have been named Tier 1 counties by the North Carolina Department of Commerce for 2018, meaning they face the highest level of economic distress in the state. According to the NC Department of Commerce’s 2018 County Tier Designations, Graham County has a median household income of less than $34,000, with 22% of families living below the poverty line. Swain County has a median family income of $36,103 and a 24.5% poverty rate, while Yancey County has a median household income of $36,418 with a 21.7% poverty rate.

Over half of Duke’s rate hike – a total of $336 million would be used to pay for the company’s coal ash cleanup costs. Before proposing the rate hike to the NC Utilities Commission, Duke sought to have these costs covered by its insurance provider, but was refused. Due to past actions, the insurance company stated that “Duke failed to take reasonable measures to avoid and/or mitigate the damage resulting from coal ash disposal.” In 2015, three Duke Energy companies including Duke Energy Carolinas plead guilty to nine criminal environmental violations for their failure to protect NC waterways from coal ash pollution. More recently, it was revealed that Duke was aware of the harms of coal ash beginning in the 1980’s, but did not begin to take precautions.

The NC Utilities Commission hearing will be held Tuesday, January 16 at 7 pm at the Macon County Courthouse located at 5 W. Main St. Courtroom A, Franklin, NC, 28734. Those who plan to speak should arrive at 6:30 pm.

MountainTrue is the oldest grassroots environmental non-profit in Western North Carolina. With offices in Hendersonville, Asheville, and Boone, we work in 23 counties to champion resilient forests, clean waters and healthy communities in our region. MountainTrue engages in policy advocacy at all levels of government, local project advocacy, and on-the-ground environmental restoration projects. Primary program areas include public lands, water quality, clean energy, land use/transportation, and citizen engagement. For more information: mountaintrue.org.

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Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

MountainTrue Defends Old-Growth Forest in Jackson County

MountainTrue Defends Old-Growth Forest in Jackson County

By Josh Kelly, Public Lands Field Biologist

On the steep, rocky slopes of Savannah Ridge in Jackson County, there is an ancient oak forest that has weathered centuries.

The oak trees are short and generally twisty; not worth much at the sawmill despite being hundreds of years old. These trees have stood, well-protected by the rugged terrain and their scant commercial value, even as the surrounding forests were logged in the early 20th century. Now, they are among the oldest and rarest trees in the Eastern United States.

Less than 0.6% of forests in the East qualify as old growth. In the Blue Ridge Mountains, we are blessed with a greater percentage, but still less than 5 percent. These old-growth forests hold a host of values: wildlife habitat, scientific information, undisturbed soils and genetics that have stood the test of time. Because these trees are so rare, so ecologically valuable and take hundreds of years to form, MountainTrue believes that existing old growth on public land should be protected from logging.

The Forest Service is not required by the current forest management plan to evaluate the old-growth condition of the stands they identify for timber sales. That’s where MountainTrue comes in. Our Public Lands staff reviews all timber projects in Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests for the presence of old growth.

We had a victory in protecting old growth just this past year. The story begins in 2016, when the Mossy Oak timber sale was put forth for public comment. The Mossy Oak Project included 235 acres of proposed logging in 10 separate units spread out over 9,500 acres. Most of the project made sense in balancing ecological and economic considerations, and the logging was designed to benefit species like deer, grouse and golden-winged warbler. However, two of the units caught our eye. Unit 6 overlapped with an important natural area identified by the NC Natural Heritage Program, and Unit 7 – part of that same ancient oak forest on Savannah Ridge in Jackson County, with the short, twisty trees – looked like a potential site of old-growth forest.

It turns out that Forest Service records indicated that Unit 7’s trees are, on average, over 150 years old. To increase the size of the unit, eight low-value acres of the ancient forest had been packaged with eight acres of younger, higher value forest. Beginning in April 2016, MountainTrue notified the Forest Service that we had identified old growth in Unit 7 of the Mossy Oak Project.

Counting the rings from the core sample allowed us to determine that this tree is part of an ancient old-growth forest.

After over a year of input, a visit to the site with the Forest Service and a formal objection to the Forest Supervisor, the eight acres of ancient oak forest from Unit 7 are no longer on the chopping block. Instead, the Forest Service and MountainTrue will work together to protect and enhance the old-growth characteristics of this small but invaluable forest. We hope that in the future it will not require such persistence to protect old growth on public land, but if there’s one thing MountainTrue has in spades, it’s persistence and love of the land.

In that spirit, we are working to ensure that old-growth forest is far more than an afterthought in the new Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Management Plan, which is due to be drafted in early 2018. We’ll fight to make sure the new plan has language to make the protection of existing old-growth forest just as important as creating young forest habitat through logging.

 

Stay tuned: The future of our region’s ancient forests hangs in the balance.

Want to join our Forest Management Plan campaign? Sign up for updates and action opportunities at mountaintrue.org/get-involved.

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Our Members Fuel Our Work


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Super-Volunteer Sky Conard Receives 2017 Esther Cunningham Award

Super-Volunteer Sky Conard Receives 2017 Esther Cunningham Award

Sky in front of the Green River in Henderson County. Photo: Hendersonville Times-News.

By Julie Mayfield, Co-Director

 

Our Esther Cunningham Award is given in honor of Esther Cunningham – the founder of the Western North Carolina Alliance, one of three organizations that merged in 2015 to become MountainTrue.

To celebrate Esther’s legacy, this award is given to people who have fought the fight, often giving over a large portion of their lives to these battles, who win some and who keep fighting even in the face of defeat. Sky Conard is one such person. We became aware of Sky in 2010, when she formed the Green River Watershed Alliance to help protect, restore and plan for the Green River in Polk County. As a resident at Lake Adger, she saw firsthand the impacts of poor land management and the lack of water planning for the lake and the river.

Since then, Sky fought the proposed Lee Nuclear Station in SC due to the impacts it would have had on the Green and Broad rivers; she secured funding for a watershed assessment and convinced NC’s DEQ to add new water quality monitoring sites on the Green River; and she pushed Polk County to prepare a report on repairs needed for the nearly century-old Lake Adger dam.

In 2015, she created another group called Protect Polk Water to fight the proposed sale of the Polk County water system to an outside entity. This would have been a terrible deal for residents and elected leaders were doing their best to do it quietly, including having one important meeting at 6 a.m. Sky wasn’t about to let this meeting go unnoticed. She organized a protest, asking people to show up in their pajamas. The media loved it and, needless to say, the Commissioners didn’t try that again. The proposed deal later died, due in no small part to the attention Sky generated.

Polk County Commissioners did their best to quietly sell the county’s water to a private entity by holding a Commission Meeting at 6 a.m. Sky organized community members to show up bright and early to the meeting for a “pajama protest.” Sky is second from the right in her wiener dog pajamas.

She has since turned her attention to Lake Adger, where she has tirelessly campaigned to get the state to meet its obligation to dredge the vast amount of sediment that has poured into the lake over recent decades. Again, against all odds, she secured a dredging feasibility study, hired a drone to get aerial photos and secured a pledge from the state to dredge the marina channel.

Sky also recently encouraged MountainTrue to create the Green Riverkeeper program. This should mean we’re doing more and she’s doing less, but that’s not Sky. She’s still out there, scouting problems, raising alarms and fighting for our watershed.

Sky, thank you for your dedication, your passion and your vision for a healthy Green River watershed. Thank you for carrying on the legacy of Esther Cunningham – an ordinary person who became extraordinary because she cared deeply about the world around her and wasn’t content to sit by and let it be harmed.

 

To sign up to volunteer with MountainTrue, visit www.mountaintrue.org/eventscalendar.

Can You Help Support This Work?

Help Us Protect Western NC's Natural Places Today.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Youth, Ecology, and Compassion: Creation Care Alliance Looks to Future Generations

Youth, Ecology, and Compassion: Creation Care Alliance Looks to Future Generations

By Scott Hardin-Nieri, Director of Creation Care Alliance of WNC

 

The Creation Care Alliance partnered with the Asheville Youth Mission and Christmount Conference Center on Oct. 14 for our 2nd annual “Mission: Earth” conference, an afternoon of youth programs about climate, social justice and faith.

The afternoon was a sight to see: teens cultivated pollinator gardens, distributed food to those in need at 12 Baskets Cafe, and listened to stories and shared time with people without homes at the Saturday Sanctuary Homeless Day Shelter at First Presbyterian Church.

MountainTrue’s Watershed Outreach Coordinator Anna Alsobrook guided one youth group in stenciling storm drains throughout West Asheville to remind the public to protect our shared water resources.

Young people from Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Circle of Mercy, Land of the Sky United Church of Christ and New Hope Presbyterian Church took part in the conference. In small groups, the teens listed challenges and possible solutions for poverty, climate change, pollution, food insecurity and faith. Then, they “cross-pollinated” ideas – seeking out challenges or solutions that apply to one or more of the issues. “It is all interconnected,” several teenagers determined as they completed the activity.

 

Mission: Earth conference participants building pollinator gardens.

Mission: Earth closing circle at Christmount Conference Center. 

This past year, CCA staff and volunteers have encouraged youth participation in events like the Earth Day Vigil and the 100 Days of Creation Care Action event. Most recently, we’ve launched Spiritual Opportunities for Intentional Living (S.O.I.L.), an intergenerational, collaborative week-long conference exploring climate change, pollution, poverty, race and reconciliation. Participants learn to incorporate resilience through spiritual practice and by sharing their own creation care work in TED talkstyle presentations, and also find time for play throughout the week by whitewater rafting, swimming and square dancing. CCA believes that young people have a crucial role to play in tackling issues of social and environmental justice, and we’re expanding opportunities for youth leadership in our work. We hope you’ll join us.

 

To attend our S.O.I.L. conference in summer 2018 and to help build CCA’s youth involvement, contact Scott Hardin-Nieri at scott@creationcarealliance.org or (828) 258-8737 x 217.

This work is made possible by people like you. Could you donate today to help us keep giving?

Can You Help Us Support This Work?


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Read Board Chair Katie Breckheimer’s Article on the Southeast Regional Recycling Council Forum for Hendersonville Times-News Here!

Read Board Chair Katie Breckheimer’s Article on the Southeast Regional Recycling Council Forum for Hendersonville Times-News Here!

Dec. 6 2017

MountainTrue Board Chair and Recycling Team member Katie Breckheimer recently wrote an article for the Hendersonville Times-News on the Southeast Regional Council’s fall recycling forum. Check out Katie’s full piece here, and find out more about MountainTrue’s Recycling Team efforts here!


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Fires Creek Tract Acquired For Permanent Conservation In Nantahala National Forest!

Fires Creek Tract Acquired For Permanent Conservation In Nantahala National Forest!

Nov. 30, 2017

MountainTrue is thrilled to celebrate victory in a successful campaign to protect a 50-acre inholding within the Fires Creek watershed in Cherokee and Clay counties for permanent conservation as part of the Nantahala National Forest. We thank the Mainspring Conservation Trust and Fred and Alice Stanback for purchasing this stretch of forest, which will have a tremendous impact in protecting wildlife, water quality, recreation and wilderness in our public lands.

MountainTrue first joined the fight to preserve Fires Creek in 2008, after a proposal to build an access road within just a few feet of Fires Creek. The land, which had been privately owned, was the Fires Creek watershed’s only inholding – a term describing privately owned land inside the boundary of a national forest. The road construction would have required cutting into acid-bearing rock, a process that threatens water quality and has been shown to kill wildlife downstream. Our Public Lands Director & Ecologist, Bob Gale, expressed our opposition to the Forest Service. 

We spoke up again when the Forest Service was prepared to use a provision that did not apply to North Carolina – the Alaska National Interests Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) – in order to build the road, and again when emergency funds that had been allocated following severe storm damage were illegally used to expand a road near Fires Creek. We lead educational trips to Fires Creek, meeting with the Forest Service’s Tusquitee District Ranger and the Roads Engineer of the project to express our concerns, and we made public comments at every stage of the Forest Service’s environmental review process.

This designation will preserve Fires Creek for pristine trout fishing by protecting waters in Laurel Creek and Fires Creek drainages from sediment and acid-producing rock pollution. It will restore the ridge line section of the popular Fires Creek Rim Trail, increase recreational opportunities so more people can enjoy the incredible forests we share, and protect Fires Creek for generations to come. As Bob Gale said recently in the Asheville Citizen-Times, “It’s a win-win for the environment, for ecology, recreation values, the economy, the contiguous ownership of the Forest Service and the protection of water quality.”

For full coverage of the Fires Creek victory in the Citizen-Times, click here.

Want to get involved in our upcoming Forest Management Plan to help us win more conservation victories? Sign up for action opportunities here.  


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Chris Joyell- Bio

Chris Joyell, Asheville Design Center Director

Chris has served as director of the Asheville Design Center (ADC) since 2009. The ADC, which merged with MountainTrue in 2017, connects volunteer designers—architects, engineers, landscape architects, planners, and graphic designers—with projects that promote healthy, vibrant, and equitable communities. Prior to his arrival in Western North Carolina, Chris worked with the Nature Conservancy, Connecticut River Watershed Council, and League of Conservation Voters. Chris is an attorney with degrees from Yale University and University of Connecticut School of Law.

Chris grew up in Connecticut and moved with his wife Nicole to Asheville in 2005. They now live in West Asheville with their border collie, Uli. Chris’s interests include running, hiking, fishing, and fantasy baseball.

phone 828.258.8737 x 205
envelope chris@ashevilledesigncenter.org


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Reconnect & Restore in the Mountains: A Retreat for Clergy

Nov. 27, 2018

The Creation Care Alliance and Wake Forest University School of Divinity bring you Reconnect & Restore in the Mountains: A Retreat for Clergy this Jan. 25 at Montreat Conference Center. Reserve your space today by filling out the form below.

 


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Support Local, Sustainable, Farmers From Your Watershed This Holiday Season!

Support Local, Sustainable, Farmers From Your Watershed This Holiday Season!

The following post is by North Carolina’s Riverkeepers through the Waterkeeper Alliance.

 

Dear Friend,

A lot of folks in North Carolina produce meat. The state ranks second nationally in pork production and is among the nation’s leaders in poultry production. But the way meat is produced makes a big difference.

Corporate-controlled industrial animal operations are one of the leading contributors to water pollution across North Carolina. But there are farmers throughout the Tar Heel state striving to provide high-quality food without harming their local communities. And they deserve our thanks and our business.

Waterkeepers across North Carolina have compiled a list of farms in their watersheds that feed us without threatening our rivers, lakes, and streams. The inventory at these farms varies, but they all have one thing in common: they’re trying to do things the right way. If you’re looking to buy a bird for your Thanksgiving feast, we encourage you to buy from one of the farms listed below (we recommend calling to reserve your bird now). And if you aren’t able to buy directly from a farmer, be sure to look for their products at farmers markets and grocery stores in your neighborhood, as many supply to local distributors.

This holiday season, let’s show our appreciation for environmentally conscious farmers who raise meat sustainably and humanely using traditional techniques. Please choose to make your holiday meal even more special by purchasing from true family farms and pledging to buy sustainably-raised meat this holiday season. And when you make your purchase, be sure to thank the farmer for taking steps to protect our environment!

 

Pledge to serve sustainable meat this holiday season here.

 

*Don’t see a sustainable farm in your community on this list? Please let us know!
Cape Fear Watershed
Grass Roots Pork Company
Patch Farmstead
Humble Roots Farm
Changin’ Ways
SF Farms
Old River Farms
AJ Family Farm
Lizzy Lou’s Family Farm
Red Beards Farm
Creeks Edge Farm
Beartrack Farm
Growing Tall Acres
NC Natural Hog Growers AssociationCatawba Watershed
Carolina Farm Trust
Foothills Pilot Plant
All Natural Farms
Bluebird FarmFrench Broad & Broad Watersheds
Buffalo Ridge
Cold Mountain Angus Beef
Farm House Beef
Frog Holler Organiks
Franny’s Farm
Gaining Ground Farm
Happy Hens & Highlands Farm
Hickory Nut Gap Farm
Hominy Valley Farms
Mountain Valley Brand Beef
Warren Wilson College Farm
Haw Watershed
Rocky Run Farm
Cane Creek Farm
Reverence Farms
Braeburn Farms
Piemonte Farm
Twin Oaks Farm
Chapel Hill Creamery
Pine Trough Branch Farm
Beechcrest Farm
Meadows Family Farm
Lilly Den Farms
Perry-winkle Farm
Bushy Tail FarmsLumber Watershed
Fairfax-Lewis Farm
Chandler Worley Family Farms
Floyd Brothers Farm & Livestock
Happy Land Farms
Moore Brothers Natural
Raft Swamp Farms
John L. Council Farm
Country Corners Farm
SF Farms
Shepherd’s Run Farm​​Neuse Watershed
Rainbow Meadow FarmTar-Pamlico Watershed
Mae Farm Meats
Ray Family Farms
Lucky 3 FarmWhite-Oak Watershed
The Barnyard

Yadkin-Pee Dee Watershed
Grace Meadow Farm


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Special Raleigh Report: GenX and the Safety of NC’s Public Drinking Water

Special Raleigh Report: GenX and the Safety of NC’s Public Drinking Water

The GenX issue has focused on the Cape Fear area, but emerging contaminants raise serious questions about the safety of drinking water across North Carolina.

Nov. 9 2017 

Revelations that a potentially dangerous chemical called GenX has been found in the Cape Fear River – as well as the treated water supplies for hundreds of thousands of people in the Cape Fear region – for decades have been roiling in the press, in Wilmington politics and at the General Assembly since the news hit earlier this year.

But while the GenX issue has largely focused on the Cape Fear region, recent developments reveal that chemicals like GenX raise a host of questions about the safety of North Carolina’s drinking water more broadly, including in Western North Carolina.

GenX – An “Emerging Contaminant”

GenX is a often referred to as an “emerging contaminant” – a substance or chemical that has been discovered in our air and water but whose environmental and public health risks have been scarcely-researched. Because so little is known about these substances, federal standards for environmental or human exposures to them are rarely enacted. Nor do regulatory agencies regularly monitor for these substances. Instead, states have a lot of leeway under the federal Clean Water Act to regulate them – or not.

Keep in mind that there are between 80 and 130 million known chemicals, and new ones are developed regularly. About 85,000 of these are used in commerce, and perhaps 10,000 of these have been tested for toxicity. Under the Clean Water Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has listed 126 of these chemicals as “priority pollutants” and flagged 65 as “toxic pollutants.” The EPA has banned just nine pollutants outright (PCBs, dioxins, chlorofluorocarbons, asbestos, hexavalent chromium and four carcinogenic mixed nitrates used in metalworking).

GenX – Not New to NC

GenX is used to manufacture Teflon. Its presence in the water of the Cape Fear has been known since at least 2015, and recent research by Harvard scientists disclosed that EPA-mandated sampling detected GenX in public drinking water supplies for 6 million people nationally between 2012 and 2015. North Carolina ranked third nationwide for the number of GenX detections.

The GenX issue finally got the attention it deserved in June of this year when the Wilmington Star-News reported that people in the Cape Fear region had been drinking GenX-contaminated water for years and that the local water utility and the state did not publicize the findings after they were alerted to the problem by Detlef Knappe, a water chemist at NC State University, in 2016.

The GenX Fallout

Since that revelation, DEQ has ordered the source of GenX, the Chemours Company, to stop all GenX discharges from its Cumberland County plant. DEQ has also ordered the company to stop discharging two other chemicals. A number of families living near the Chemours plant are now being supplied with bottled water after GenX contamination was discovered in their personal wells.

The EPA has begun investigating Chemours and its parent company, DuPont, and the NC Attorney General’s office has started a civil investigation. The local water authority in the Cape Fear region is also suing Chemours and DuPont, and the NC Department of Health and Human Services has reduced its “provisional health goal limit” for GenX from 70,000 parts per trillion (ppt) to 140 ppt in drinking water.

On the political front, Republicans in the General Assembly and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper have traded charges about who is responsible for DEQ budget cuts and GenX going undetected for so long.

The Bigger Picture

While GenX has received a great deal of attention, it also raises much larger issues about North Carolina’s drinking water supplies. For example, Dr. Knappe, the NC State professor, recently told a legislative study committee that another emerging contaminant — 1,4-dioxane — is also present in Cape Fear drinking water at levels that exceed NC standards. Like GenX, 1,4-dioxane is not removed by traditional water treatment methods. Dr. Knappe estimated that more than one million North Carolinians, mostly in the Cape Fear river basin, are now drinking water that exceeds the state standard for 1,4-dioxane toxin.

Cape Fear Riverkeeper Kemp Burdette told the same committee that industries should be required to prove that the chemicals they want to discharge into drinking supplies are safe before they are permitted to do so. Right now, Kemp told the committee, polluters are only required to stop putting emerging contaminants into rivers and streams when there is scientific evidence that they are harmful — a process that can take years and cost a great deal of money to complete.

Another environmental group, the North Carolina Coastal Federation, has urged lawmakers to invest several million dollars in a new generation of water monitoring technology that can detect emerging contaminants and ensure that everyone — scientists, regulatory agencies and the public — know what is in our drinking water.

At MountainTrue, our Riverkeepers for the French Broad, Green and Watauga rivers and our Broad River Waterkeeper Affiliate are working with Riverkeepers from across the state to explore the extent of the presence of emerging contaminants in watersheds statewide.

We will also be joining the alliance of environmentalists, local governments, public health advocates and concerned citizens who are pushing policymakers to invest the time, money and regulatory muscle needed to keep our water clean and healthy.

More specifically, MountainTrue’s priorities for the state’s response to GenX include:

  • A full audit of all industrial dischargers into North Carolina rivers and streams so that we understand what chemicals are being discharged into our water;
  • Expanded state investment in water quality monitoring to detect emerging contaminants in all public drinking water supplies;
  • Full enforcement of the state’s authority under the Clean Water Act to detect emerging contaminants and to ensure they do not pose a risk to human health or the environment;
  • Full public disclosure of the results of water monitoring and discharge audits so that everyone — including the public — understands what is in our water; and
  • A transparent, open decision-making process to determine the best way to eliminate, reduce and prevent emerging contaminants in public drinking water.

More GenX Reading

You can find a GenX FAQ from the Star-News here.

All of the NC Department of Environmental Quality’s GenX information can be found here.

The North Carolina Health News’ reporting on GenX can be found here.

A good summary of Dr. Knappe’s work on 1,4-dioxane can be found here.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.