Join North Carolina’s Riverkeepers in calling on state regulators to modernize its public notification system.
Millions of people across North Carolina take to our beaches, rivers and lakes to cool off, swim, paddle, and fish, but most are unaware that nearly 16 million gallons of untreated sewage has spilled into our waterways during a two and a half month period (May 17 to July 30) according to data collected by North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
North Carolina desperately needs to update its public spill notification system. Current state law requires operators of wastewater collection and treatment systems to notify DEQ of spills of over 1,000 gallons into surface waters and to send a press release to local media within 24 hours. For spills of over 15,000 gallons, operators are required to place a notice in the newspapers of counties impacted by the spill within 10 days (NCGS 143-215.1C). Spills of other pollutants have similar reporting requirements to DEQ.
North Carolina should not be depending on ads in print newspapers to get the word out about dangerous spills. Newspapers are not mandated to run the press releases, and many local newspapers are only published in print on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, which is not frequent enough to warn river users of water quality problems in a timely manner.
The public has the right to know about major pollution spills that impact our waterways as soon as possible, and through the technology the public uses today. Join North Carolina’s Riverkeepers in calling for a better, more modern system that would:
- Publish spill data to an online database and interactive map and on agency social media channels
- Send email and text alerts to interested parties.
- Allow the public to sign up to receive these alerts for the watersheds that they are interested in.
Update: City of Asheville Agrees to Stormwater Task Force!
UPDATE: Great News: More than 800 of you took action and helped make a difference for the French Broad River!
Asheville City Staff have committed to working with local clean water advocates to set up a Stormwater Task Force. The task force will analyze where and how the City’s stormwater infrastructure can be improved, and will put together an action plan to fix the problems.
This is an important step for the French Broad and the communities and businesses that depend on it. Please take a moment to thank members of City Council and City Staff for being responsive to the public. It’s important for them to hear that we appreciate them taking action, but that we also expect them to honor and work toward implementing the recommendations of the task force.
Prior Action Alert
Call on Asheville City Council to do its part to clean up the French Broad River, starting with the establishment of a Stormwater Task Force to address the City’s water pollution problems. Not only does the City have a legal obligation to protect water quality, Council’s commitment to racial equity demands action to protect residents of the Southside neighborhood from the highest pollution levels in the city.
Throughout the spring, summer and fall, MountainTrue conducts weekly bacteria sampling along the French Broad River and posts the results at swimguide.com. In 2019, this program made headlines as more than half of the sites (53%) failed to meet the EPA’s E. coli standard for safe recreation. This year, the results are even worse, with 69% of the sites failing. With climate change causing heavier and more frequent storms, this problem will only get worse.
|French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson taking water samples from Nasty Branch, a stream that flows through the Southside neighborhood that has, on average, the highest E. coli levels in the French Broad River Basin.|
Our river is a public resource, and tens of thousands of people recreate on the French Broad every year. However, none of the testing sites within the City of Asheville pass the EPA’s safe limit on average, and the worst site that we test is Nasty Branch, which drains over half of downtown Asheville and flows through the historically African American Southside neighborhood, before discharging into the French Broad River in the River Arts District.
High levels of E. coli also indicate the presence of other, more harmful microbes, such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella, and norovirus. Heavy rains and storms often result in spikes in E. coli contamination, increasing the risk to human health. Contact with or consumption of contaminated water can cause gastrointestinal illness and skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic and wound infections. The most commonly reported symptoms are stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and low-grade fever.
Asheville City Council has a moral and legal responsibility under the Clean Water Act to protect our river and water quality for all city residents. City of Hendersonville staff* has already committed to establishing a Stormwater Task Force, Asheville should too.
* We previously incorrectly said that Henderson County was setting up a Stormwater Task Force. We have corrected this page and the letter to Asheville City Council to reflect the fact that City of Hendersonville staff has committed to establishing a task force and tacking storm water pollution issues.
Call On Buncombe County Commissioners To Vote YES To 40 Solar Projects!
On July 21, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will vote on whether or not to install solar panels at 40 sites of county-owned buildings, Asheville City and Buncombe County public schools and A-B Tech Community College. Will you take action below to call on our Commissioners to vote YES on Tuesday?
Why We Support:
- This proposal would install about 6.7 MW of new solar energy in Buncombe County – the equivalent of powering 677 homes entirely with solar each year. Since these solar energy systems are expected to last 30–40 years, this is equal to taking 677 homes off the grid.
- The solar panels would be installed by an employee-owned solar company based right here in Buncombe County, showing that we can face the climate crisis and support local jobs at the same time.
- The prices offered to install these solar projects are significantly cheaper than what County staff first estimated, and the energy savings from the solar panels will save the county money on utility costs every single year.
- Buncombe County made a commitment in 2017 to move our county to 100% renewable energy. Voting yes to these projects is an important step to start making progress on this commitment.
The county’s vote on Tuesday will decide whether all 40 of these solar projects move forward. Will you take action by contacting the Board of Commissioners below?
Note: The “elected official” title will automatically fill in with the names of the Commissioners once sent. We highly encourage you to customize your message and add why this issue matters to you!
Submit a public comment to be read at Tuesday’s Commission meeting before the vote by emailing email@example.com or calling and leaving a voicemail at 828-250-6500.
Stand Up Against the Asphalt Plant Proposed for East Flat Rock!
Take Action Now.
Take action today and submit your comments to the Henderson County Board of Commissioners in opposition to rezoning that would allow the construction of a dangerous and unnecessary asphalt plant in East Flat Rock.
SE Asphalt wants to build an industrial asphalt plant at the intersection of Spartanburg Highway (US-176) and US-25, across the street from a low-income mobile home park and surrounded by hundreds of single family homes, small farms, and the Green River Game Lands. The site drains directly to Laurel Creek, which flows into the Green River.
The developer has applied for conditional rezoning for 6.5 acres to a conditional district to construct the new asphalt plant. MountainTrue’s Green Riverkeeper and hundreds of local residents oppose this rezoning and the construction of the new asphalt plant because:
The asphalt plant is too close to residential areas, homes and businesses.
The proposed site is across the Spartanburg Highway from a mobile home park and is surrounded by residential neighborhoods. The parcel is currently zoned for Community Commercial. By seeking conditional rezoning to allow for the asphalt plant, the developer is effectively trying to rezone a site — that is bordered by residential areas — for industrial use.
A study by the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) showed 45% of residents living within a half mile of a new asphalt plant reported a deterioration of their health, which began after the plant opened.
Asphalt plants are a source of harmful air pollution
Asphalt fumes are known toxins and contain pollutants such as formaldehyde, hexane, phenol, polycyclic organic matter, and toluene. Exposure to these air toxics can cause cancer, central nervous system problems, liver damage, respiratory problems, and skin irritation.
The asphalt plant could harm our natural environment
The proposed site is dangerously close to the Green River Game Land and borders the headwaters of Laurel Creek. Air pollution and water runoff of pollutants from the site would impact the Game Lands and Laurel Creek, which flows into the Green River.
The East Flat Rock asphalt plant is an environmental justice issue
The site is across the road to a low-income community that would bear the brunt of air and water pollution, dust, noise, truck traffic, and exposure to harmful toxins. Low income communities are disproportionately impacted by industrial facilities across the nation, and that’s not right.
What you can do:
1. Submit your comments to the Henderson County Board of Commissioners in opposition to the asphalt plant.
2. Attend this upcoming meeting:
- Henderson County Board of Commissioners on October 1 at 6 PM: Technology Education and Development Center at Blue Ridge Community College, 49 E. Campus Drive, Flat Rock, NC
3. Stay informed and get involved with the local community organizing group Friends of East Flat Rock:
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/251151092979467/about/
- Website: https://friendsofeastflatrock.org/