Public Input Session on Cliffside Coal Ash Closure Options

On January 22, the NC Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) will host an information session and receive public input about coal ash pond closure options for Duke’s Cliffside plant. The input they receive at this meeting and through public comments will help decide whether NCDEQ enforces a full cleanup of Duke Energy’s coal ash or allows them to leave it “capped in place” at the site.

What’s Happening With Coal Ash at Cliffside?

Duke Energy’s coal ash pits at its James E. Rogers Energy Complex  more commonly known as the Cliffside Steam Station  store millions of tons of coal ash waste in a pit that extends approximately 80 feet deep into the groundwater table in violation of federal rules. Located in Cliffside, N.C. on the border of Cleveland and Rutherford counties, this waste is seeping into the Broad River, and polluting the groundwater with toxic heavy metals like arsenic, mercury and lead.

In December 2018, Duke acknowledged another violation of federal rules intended to protect people from coal ash contamination  surpassing the federal groundwater standards for arsenic and cobalt. This is one of many legal violations at Cliffside related to coal ash storage, and Duke’s noncompliance means seepages around the impoundment are getting into wetlands and streams, and ultimately the Broad River.

What’s “Cap In Place”?

Duke Energy wants to leave its coal ash right where it is – in massive unlined pits seeping into the groundwater and the Broad River, and polluting the groundwater with toxic heavy metals. “Cap in place” simply means that the coal ash would be covered up but would remain in the groundwater table, causing permanent pollution of groundwater and migration of pollutants to surface water and the Broad River. To comply with the law and protect water quality, Duke must excavate the coal ash now.

Duke Energy is already required to remove its coal ash at eight other sites in North Carolina and all of its sites in South Carolina –Cliffside’s families and community deserve the same protections. NCDEQ needs to hear us loud and clear: We need cleanup, not cover-up!

What Can I Do?

1. Come to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s public information session on Jan. 22 in Forest City to call for cleanup, not cover-up, of Cliffside’s coal ash. Find the details for the event here.

2. Take action here to tell NCDEQ that Duke’s coal ash should be moved out of the groundwater, away from the Broad River, and into the lined landfill on their property.


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.

Calling All Businesses: Our Planet Needs You

Calling All Businesses: Our Planet Needs You

Businesses and Groups can compete against each other for a better planet through the #WNCforthePlanet Business & Community Challenge

Asheville, NC – As part of #WNCforthePlanet – a celebration of Earth Day throughout the month of April – local conservation and environmental nonprofits are recruiting businesses, civic groups and community organizations to take part in the Business & Community Challenge. Through this competition, groups compete with each other to earn Planet Points and work for the improvement of our local environment.

The #WNCforthePeople Business & Community Challenge is open to area businesses, civic organizations and community groups, who then recruit teams from among their members to compete for prizes and bragging rights. Companies interested in getting involved should contact Devon Hathaway, Americorps Outings and Education Coordinator at MountainTrue at outings@mountaintrue.org or by calling (828) 258-8737 ext. 214.

“Environmental stewardship is a core tenet at Mosaic Realty, which is why we’re teaming up with MountainTrue for a workday” said broker and owner Mike Figura. “Mosaic Realty welcomes you to join us and the #WNCforthePlanet team in cleaning up Asheville. We will be putting in a work day at Richmond Hill Park to eradicate invasives and we encourage other local businesses to get involved with service projects in April.”

Teams commit to one or more service projects throughout the month of April and are paired up with a #WNCforthePlanet partner nonprofit organization which will provide staff guidance and equipment for a day of working on behalf of a cleaner and greener WNC. Groups earn Planet Points according to how much they accomplish and the strenuousness of the project. Each team’s score is calculated according to a difficulty scale and averaged on a per-person basis. At the end of the month we tally the Planet Points, rank teams, name victors and hand out awards and prizes.

Available service projects include river cleanups, native habitat restoration, trail workdays and more. The team with the first, second, and third most Planet Points will choose from prizes, including a river float with MountainTrue, RiverLink and Asheville Greenworks, a hike led by the Southern Appalachians Highland Conservancy, or a private tour of New Belgium Brewing. Victors will honored on wncfortheplanet.org and through the social media of participating #WNCforthePlanet partners.

Register your team today. Contact Devon Hathaway, Americorps Outings and Education Coordinator at MountainTrue at outings@mountaintrue.org or by calling (828) 258-8737 ext. 214.

About WNC for the Planet:
WNC for the Planet is a collective made up of local environmental organizations that provides access to service, educational, and recreational opportunities in recognition of Earth Month. We strive to unify our community to encourage and celebrate environmental stewardship for our planet and the region. wncfortheplanet.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.

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.

Riverkeepers Respond to Duke’s Coal Ash Dishonesty

Riverkeepers Respond to Duke’s Coal Ash Dishonesty

Nov. 8 2017

Over the weekend, Duke Energy Spokesperson Danielle Peoples responded to MountainTrue’s paddle protest on the Broad River with multiple untrue statements about the dangers of coal ash and the extent of Duke’s pollution at their power plant in Cliffside, NC [“Battle over coal ash continues in Cliffside” (11/5/17)]. In a Letter-to-the-Editor for the Shelby Star, Western North Carolina’s Riverkeepers stand up for the truth on coal ash and our rivers and set the record straight.

 

It’s time for Duke Energy to come clean on coal ash pollution. In a recent article that ran in the Shelby Star  [“Battle over coal ash continues in Cliffside” (11/5/17)], Duke Energy spokesperson Danielle Peoples made numerous misleading statements about the dangers of coal ash and the ongoing pollution that is happening at Cliffside.

First, Peoples tells the Star that Duke has “finished excavating the basin earlier this year.” Problem solved, right? Well, not exactly. There are three ash basins at Cliffside, and Duke Energy has only excavated its smallest one. The truth is that 90% of coal ash stored in ponds at that site remain in its two unlined pits, which continue to pollute area groundwater and the Broad River.

Inexplicably, People’s claim about Cliffside is compounded by a glaring error in the Star’s reporting —   that Duke Energy has closed all of its coal ash ponds around the state. This isn’t true at the Allen and Marshall plants near Charlotte, the Belews Creek plant near Winston-Salem, and it isn’t true at Cliffside where Duke Energy continues to operate a very active pond that they sluice wet ash into and discharge wastewater out of every day. We know this because this is how they operate under their current wastewater permit, and that doesn’t count all the additional illegal discharges that we’ve found.

What does the future have in store for Cliffside? Duke says that capping these unlined pits will solve the problem, but if the company has its way the remaining coal ash will be left sitting in up to 50 feet* of groundwater, continuing to pollute our groundwater and the river for centuries.

The most dangerous of Peoples’ assertions is that coal ash is nonhazardous. Here she hides behind a regulatory and legal technicality. While it is true that the Environmental Protection Agency declined to regulate coal ash as “hazardous waste” under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the EPA was equally clear that “there is significant potential for [coal ash ponds] to leach hazardous constituents into groundwater, impair drinking water supplies and cause adverse impacts on human health and the environment.” The EPA has set health limits on the toxic heavy metals and other constituents found in the coal ash at Cliffside because they are dangerous to people.

Here in North Carolina, when a small business owner or company makes a mess, we expect them to clean it up. Duke Energy is the largest utility company in the country – they can handle it.

David Caldwell, Broad River Alliance

Hartwell Carson, French Broad Riverkeeper

Gray Jernigan, Green Riverkeeper

Andy Hill, Watauga Riverkeeper

*The original version of this post said “60 feet” instead of “50 feet” of groundwater. The error has been corrected. 

Want to get involved? Support our petition to make Duke Energy clean up their coal ash pollution of the Broad River and sign up for clean water 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.

Take Action: Tell Duke Energy to Stop Polluting the Broad River with Coal Ash!

Take Action: Tell Duke Energy to Stop Polluting the Broad River with Coal Ash!

Take Action: Tell Duke Energy to Stop Polluting the Broad River with Coal Ash!

We’re building a movement to hold Duke Energy accountable for their coal ash pollution.

On Oct. 14, community members joined the Broad River Alliance and three other MountainTrue Riverkeepers for a paddle protest in front of Duke’s power plant in Cliffside, NC. Sign our petition below to keep the heat on and show Duke that North Carolina’s citizens will not tolerate their toxic pollution of our waterways.

 


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.

Turnout for 30th Annual Big Sweep Nearly Quadruples, Volunteers Clean Up 50 miles in WNC

Turnout for 30th Annual Big Sweep Nearly Quadruples, Volunteers Clean Up 50 miles in WNC

Turnout for 30th Annual Big Sweep Nearly Quadruples, Cleans 50 miles in WNC

Collaboration with Community Partners and Expanded Riverkeeper Programs Made this our Biggest Big Sweep Yet

Sept. 26 2017

 

Community members and students turned out to carry 24 bags of trash out of the Guy Ford section of the Watauga River. In total, Big Sweep participants removed 7,810 pounds of trash from Western North Carolina’s waterways.

 

On September 9, more than 253 people from all walks of life turned out to remove more than 7,810 pounds of trash — 3.9 tons! — from Western North Carolina’s waterways as part of our 30th annual NC Big Sweep. Through a series of river and roadside cleanups in Buncombe, Henderson, Transylvania, and Watauga counties, Mountaintrue joined key partners Asheville Greenworks, the Waterkeeper Alliance and AmeriCorps Project Conserve to clean 50 miles of rivers and streams.

Gray Jernigan, MountainTrue’s Green Riverkeeper and Southern Regional Director, confirmed that the Big Sweep’s attendance this year “almost quadrupled” compared to last year. Why was the event such a success? “Thanks to the partnership and coordination with other great local organizations and businesses,” Gray says. “We’ve also recently expanded our Riverkeeper programs to include the Green and Broad Rivers, which builds our geographic reach and volunteer engagement in those areas.”

As a 30th annual event, Big Sweep falls into a long-standing tradition of volunteers in North Carolina cleaning up waterways in their communities. The event could not have happened without Asheville Greenworks, a key leader in the Big Sweep effort, or our Big Sweep sponsors, which included Asheville Outdoor Center, Griffin Waste Services, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Henderson County and French Broad Outfitters.

Fifteen members of the Hendersonville Rotary Club showed up in full force for the event, and were joined by State Senator Chuck Edwards in cleaning up Mud Creek.
“As a volunteer team leader, I find it to be really satisfying work,” said Don Huneycutt, the Big Sweep Team Captain for the Hendersonville Rotary Club. “ It takes a team and some hard work , but when you’re done, you can see that you made a real difference.”

 

A volunteer with the Hendersonville Rotary Club removes a tire from Mud Creek. 

 

Our waterways attract quite the collection of bizarre trash. State Senator Chuck Edwards finds a toy ambulance in Mud Creek. 

 

The Hendersonville Rotary Club with collected trash from Mud Creek. State Senator Chuck Edwards (front row, second from right) joined the group, wearing a MountainTrue hat.

 

The Broad River Alliance named the event their “Sarah Sweep” for the second year in a row in memory of Sarah Spencer, an active volunteer who was 26-years-old when she was killed in a car accident in 2016. The event served Sarah’s memory proud, as 22 volunteers turned out to remove 1400 pounds of trash – including 32 tires! – along five miles of the First Broad River.

The French Broad Riverkeeper’s team was based out of Westfeldt River Park, and mainly received volunteers from Asheville Greenworks and AmeriCorps Project Conserve on the French Broad in Transylvania County. (add numbers from cleanup) When the work was done, the volunteers enjoyed an after party at Westfeldt River Park sponsored by Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

And in the High Country, a team of 20 volunteers cleaned up the Guy Ford section of the Watauga River, which was recently donated to Watauga County by the Blue Ridge Conservancy for recreation. “Thank you to all our amazing volunteers who made the 30th Annual Big Sweep a success,” said Andy Hill, Watauga Riverkeeper and MountainTrue’s High Country Regional Director. “[And] major appreciation to Edgar Peck and the Blue Ridge Conservancy for making Guy Ford Access another place for people to enjoy the Watauga River.” The cleanup crews, consisting mainly of community members and students, filled 24 bags of trash, including a tent, a mattress and a rusty trash can.

Volunteers in all of our regions noticed an abundance of a few particular pieces of trash: plastic bottles and tires. Plastic bottles remain a huge threat to our waterways, and the Big Sweep was a reminder to volunteers and community partners that litter on our streets often ends up in our streams and rivers as stormwater runoff. By tackling the problem at the source, efforts to reduce littering and careless garbage disposal can greatly reduce the burdens on our waterways each year.

Big Sweep participants also collected at least 115 tires this year, and some groups even had designated Tire Teams to remove them. Tires often end up in waterways because they are seen as too difficult or expensive to dispose of properly. Dumped in streams, they become environmental hazards. The best way to recycle tires is through your local county recycling program. Henderson and Transylvania counties will dispose of five tires for free per household, per year; Buncombe County accepts 10. For other items that are difficult to recycle, from packing peanuts, to printer cartridges, to dog crates, take note of Asheville Greenworks’ Hard-2-Recycle events here.

Thank you to all of our volunteers, community partners, and sponsors that made the Big Sweep happen this year. By helping us fund our Green, Broad, French Broad and Watauga Riverkeeper programs, you’re helping to remove thousands of pounds of trash from our waterways every year. We hope you’ll join us in your gloves and rain boots next year to make the next Big Sweep an even bigger success.

 

AmeriCorps Project Conserve Members clean up the French Broad River in kayaks. 


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.