The Broad River Gets Its Own Riverkeeper
MountainTrue is pleased to announce that David Caldwell, MountainTrue’s program director for the Broad River Alliance, is now the new Broad Riverkeeper and will serve as a fundamental protector of the Broad River watershed. MountainTrue’s riverkeeper programs are key to our endeavors to monitor and protect the quality of our region’s waterways. MountainTrue is one of the few organizations in the nation with four Waterkeeper Alliance Riverkeeper programs: the French Broad Riverkeeper, the Green Riverkeeper, the Watauga Riverkeeper and now the Broad Riverkeeper.
Quote from Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., president of Waterkeeper Alliance:
“Waterkeeper Alliance is thrilled to have David Caldwell as the eyes, ears, and voice in this this vital watershed and community. Every community deserves to have swimmable, drinkable and fishable water, and David is the right leader to fight for clean water in the region.”
David moved to the Broad River watershed in 1987 after receiving an Engineering degree from Clemson University. He worked in manufacturing for several years in Shelby, and has been fishing, paddling and exploring the watershed’s rivers and tributaries for over three decades now.
David’s first civic involvement was in the late 90s, when he joined efforts to rebuild and restore the carousel in Shelby City Park. The carousel is now a jewel of the City of Shelby Parks system. Since 2000, David has also run a woodworking business at his home in Lawndale.
In 2015, David became the Coordinator for the Broad River Alliance, a Waterkeeper Affiliate and program of MountainTrue. David has teamed up with regional representatives from the Broad River Greenway, Rutherford Outdoor Coalition, Rutherford County and Cleveland County Development Authorities and others to protect and promote the waters of the Broad River basin.
Quote from David Caldwell, the Broad Riverkeeper:
“I’ve spent the past three decades falling in love with the Broad River and its tributaries. It is an honor to be able to call myself a Riverkeeper and to continue my mission to ensure our rivers are safe and clean for the people who live, swim, paddle, and fish here. Folks in our watershed are passionate about our beautiful rivers and have amazed me with their enthusiasm and support. We have a lot of great programs and activities planned for our community in the year ahead. I hope that you will join us.”
Quote from Julie Mayfield, co-director of MountainTrue:
“MountainTrue is proud of our partnership with the Waterkeeper Alliance. Our Riverkeepers fight for safe and healthy waterways for all citizens of their watersheds by bringing together and empowering local residents and communities to identify pollution sources, advocate for and enforce environmental laws, and engage in restoration. We’re thrilled to be bringing this program to our Broad River communities.”
Quote from Marc Yaggi, executive director of Waterkeeper Alliance:
“David will have an incredibly important job. Waterkeepers defend their communities against anyone who threatens their right to clean water, from law-breaking polluters to irresponsible government officials. Until our public agencies have the means necessary to protect us from polluters, and the will to enforce the law, there will always be a great need for people like David to fight for our right to clean water.”
How Clean Is Your River? Check Swim Guide
Before you head out onto the water, don’t forget to check theswimguide.org. MountainTrue’s four Riverkeepers post up-to-date water monitoring results for the Broad, French Broad, Green and Watauga rivers just in time for the weekends. The Swim Guide is the public’s best resource for knowing which streams and river recreation areas are safe to swim in, and which have failed to meet safe water quality standards for bacteria pollution.
“Right before jumping into the river, the number one question people ask us is ‘Is it clean?’” says French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson. “Swim Guide is the answer to that question.” Each week throughout the spring, summer and fall, the volunteers for each of MounainTrue’s four Riverkeeper programs collect samples from their rivers’ most popular streams and recreation areas every Wednesday. By Friday afternoon, those samples are analyzed for levels of E. coli and the data is posted to theswimguide.org.
“We get the results to the public as quickly as possible because we want Swim Guide to be up-to-date in time for the weekend,” says Green Riverkeeper Gray Jernigan.
“E. coli bacteria makes its way into our rivers and streams from sewer leaks, failing septic tanks and stormwater runoff. One of the biggest culprits is runoff from animal agricultural operations with substandard riparian buffers,” explains Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell. In general, waterways that are located in more remote areas or protected public lands that lack agricultural, developmental or industrial pollution sources are the cleanest and least affected by stormwater runoff. Areas closer to development and polluting agricultural practices are much more heavily impacted.
Heavy rains and storms often result in spikes in E. coli contamination, increasing the risk to human health. “As it rains and the river becomes muddier, levels of bacteria pollution generally get worse,” Watauga Riverkeeper Andy explains. “But when the water is clear, it’s a great opportunity to get out for a swim in the river without worry.”
MountainTrue, Other Community Groups Intervene In Duke’s Appeal of Coal Ash Order
The Marshall Steam Station, one of the six coal ash sites the NC Department of Environmental Quality ordered for Duke Energy to clean up.
May 6, 2019
MountainTrue and several other community groups in North Carolina are intervening in Duke Energy’s appeal of the order requiring the company to clean up its toxic coal ash pollution.
The Department of Environmental Quality’s order was a victory for clean water and frontline communities affected by coal ash in our state. MountainTrue is committed to ensuring that the science-based evidence that led to the Department of Environmental Quality’s order is respected, and that the order is implemented justly for the people of North Carolina.
The following is a press release by the Southern Environmental Law Center, which will represent MountainTrue in the proceedings before the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings. See this press release on the Southern Environmental Law Center’s website here.
Groups Move to Defend N.C. Order that Duke Energy Must Clean Up Coal Ash Pollution at Six Sites
Duke’s Refusal Follows Years of Public Outcry, Pollution, Crimes & Spills
CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—Community groups represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center moved to intervene in appeals filed by Duke Energy in the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings in which Duke Energy tries to avoid cleaning up its coal ash pollution at six sites in North Carolina. At those sites, Duke Energy stores toxic coal ash in unlined, leaking pits sitting in groundwater next to rivers, lakes, and drinking water reservoirs. For years and again in 2019, thousands of North Carolina families have called upon the state government and Duke Energy to clean up all of Duke’s leaking, unlined coal ash pits across the state. The Southern Environmental Law Center represents the following groups in today’s filings: Appalachian Voices, Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, MountainTrue, Roanoke River Basin Association, Sierra Club, the Stokes County Branch of the NAACP, and Waterkeeper Alliance.
“All of North Carolina’s waters and all its families deserve protection from Duke Energy’s toxic coal ash pollution,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center which represents the groups in court seeking cleanup of Duke Energy’s coal ash pollution. “Years of study show the only way to protect North Carolina families is to remove Duke Energy’s toxic coal ash waste from polluting, unlined waterfront pits. When the coal ash from all of Duke’s sites is finally out of our groundwater in dry, lined storage at each site, North Carolina’s rivers will be cleaner, North Carolina’s drinking water will be safer, and North Carolina’s communities will be more secure.”
State scientists determined that excavation was the only acceptable option because Duke Energy’s coal ash sits deep in the groundwater, and if left in unlined, leaking lagoons as Duke proposes, it would continue to pollute indefinitely. According to Duke Energy’s own analyses, it has the ability to remove the wet ash from unlined pits to dry, lined landfills on-site at each of the six sites in question. Duke Energy is required to clean up seven other coal ash sites in North Carolina by court order and an eighth coal ash site by a settlement agreement with the Southern Environmental Law Center, Waterkeeper Alliance, and Yadkin Riverkeeper.
“For years and with much effort, community members in the Broad River Watershed have respectfully shown up for DEQ’s public input meetings and public information sessions as well as Duke Energy’s community open house,” said David Caldwell, the Broad Riverkeeper at MountainTrue which is a client in the motion to intervene regarding Duke’s Cliffside site. “We have followed and been part of the long process of discovering the truth about coal ash and its hazards. DEQ made the decision to have all coal ash in our state excavated and stored safely. We respect and support this decision. It is time for Duke Energy to stop wasting time and money on delaying the inevitable. Duke must now show some respect for its customers, families of North Carolina, and our Department of Environmental Quality; they must get on with the job of cleaning up their mess.”
Duke Energy’s operating companies in North Carolina are under criminal probation after they pleaded guilty 18 times to nine coal ash crimes committed at sites across the state. Duke Energy has a long record of coal ash pollution from the catastrophic Dan River coal ash spill and additional spills, including spills from its pits in Goldsboro and Wilmington in recent storms and continuing flows of pollution from its unlined pits across the state where coal ash sits in groundwater next to rivers and lakes. Duke Energy has repeatedly told the public its coal ash storage was safe, and repeatedly, Duke Energy has been proven wrong, with serious consequences for North Carolina communities and waterways.
“The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation has been working to protect our waters from coal ash contamination since at least 2012 and will continue to do so,” said Brandon Jones, Catawba Riverkeeper at the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation which is a client in the motions to intervene regarding Duke’s Allen and Marshall sites. “North Carolinians deserve clean water that is not contaminated by coal ash. Duke Energy has cleaned up other coal ash pits in our watershed and it is time for them to finish the job. We support the NC DEQ’s decision.”
“At this point, groups and communities throughout the state and the NC DEQ are all in agreement that excavation is the only acceptable option,” says Larissa Liebmann, staff attorney at Waterkeeper Alliance, which is a client on the motions to intervene regarding Duke’s Allen and Marshall sites. “Yet Duke Energy still refuses to do the right thing.”
With these agency orders, North Carolina joins its neighboring states in requiring cleanup of dangerous unlined coal ash storage. Every utility in South Carolina is already required to excavate all the coal ash from every unlined lagoon in the state, and Virginia recently passed legislation that requires Dominion to excavate all the coal ash from its unlined pits in the state. The pollution from the six sites that are the subjects of Duke Energy’s appeals flows through North Carolina and into South Carolina and Virginia.
A timeline is available here.
For more than 30 years, the Southern Environmental Law Center has used the power of the law to champion the environment of the Southeast. With over 70 attorneys and nine offices across the region, SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect our natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region. www.SouthernEnvironment.org
Stand Up For Clean Water at Mine Permit Hearing May 2!
The North Toe River in Spruce Pine is loved by paddlers, anglers and swimmers alike. It provides tourism opportunities for the local community, and is home to trout and endangered species that need clear mountain rivers to thrive.
However, mining facilities on the North Toe have violated water quality standards repeatedly in recent years, and last summer, the North Toe closed to the public after a hydrofluoric acid spill from a mine caused a fish kill. And while the NC Department of Environmental Quality considers the river impaired, the agency has proposed new permits for the next several years that would allow the pollution from the mine processing facilities to continue.
Right now the permits for all six mining facilities on the North Toe are up for renewal. Thankfully, MountainTrue members like you contacted the NC Division of Water Resources in February to make sure the Spruce Pine community gets a public hearing before the permits are approved, and that hearing is now scheduled for Thursday, May 2.
Public Hearing on Wastewater Discharge Permit Renewals for Avery and Mitchell Counties
Thursday May 2 at 6 P.M.
Mitchell Senior Citizens Center
152 Ledger School Road
Bakersville, NC 28705
Speaker registration begins at 5:30 P.M.
We hope you’ll come to the hearing to stand up for clean water, and spread the word to make sure there’s a big public turnout!
Why Are The Mine Permits A Problem?
- As it stands, these Clean Water Act permits would allow these mining facilities to continue dumping polluted water into the North Toe River for the next several years. Now is our chance to urge the Department of Environmental Quality to do the right thing. DEQ can still change the permits to require the mines to clean up their act, instead of locking in the same pollution for years to come.
- DEQ considers the North Toe River impaired, but allows the current pollution to continue unabated in the proposed renewed pollution permits.
- DEQ should require the facilities with aging or failing infrastructure to upgrade their operations, reduce pollution, and protect water quality.
- These six mining facilities generate an enormous amount of waste and together have a real negative impact on the North Toe. With all six permits up for renewal, now is the perfect opportunity for DEQ to take a closer look at these mining facilities and to develop permits will clean up the river.
- The outdoor recreation economy in Western North Carolina depends on clean water and requires industry to be good stewards of our rivers.
- If you live near the North Toe, DEQ needs to hear from you about what conditions you observe when mine runoff clogs the river and where the biggest problems are.
Proposed Mine Facility Permits:
Crystal Operation: https://deq.nc.gov/news/events/crystal-operation-permit-nc0084620-0
The Feldspar Corporation: https://deq.nc.gov/news/events/feldspar-corporation-permit-nc0000353
Red Hill Quartz Processing Plant: https://deq.nc.gov/news/events/red-hill-quartz-processing-plant-permit-nc0085839-0
Schoolhouse Quartz Facility: https://deq.nc.gov/news/events/schoolhouse-quartz-facility-permit-nc0000361-0
Quartz Operation: https://deq.nc.gov/news/events/quartz-operation-permit-nc0000175-0
Quartz Corp/Pine Mountain: https://deq.nc.gov/news/events/quartz-corppine-mountain-permit-nc0000400-1