Stop The Bluffs At River Bend

Stop The Bluffs At River Bend

Stop The Bluffs At River Bend

Help fight a planned mega-development that would be built on 82 acres of intact forest directly next to Richmond Hill Park, increase traffic, and pollute the French Broad River.

The proposed development would be built on extremely steep slopes, and the developer has not agreed to the higher level of stormwater management at this site that we know is necessary to protect the health of the river.

MountainTrue opposes this project in its current form because of the potential impacts to places we all share like the French Broad River, Richmond Hill Park and roads unsuited for the additional increased traffic. We are partnering with Richmond Hill & River Rescue — a local community group — to oppose this project and we need your help.

TAKE ACTION!


May 18, 6:30 pm:
Attend the Woodfin Town Commission Public Meeting to voice your opposition. (Details to be posted here.)

June 7, 6:30 pm: Attend the Woodfin Planning and Zoning Meeting to stand up for public health and safety. (Check here the day of the meeting for the Zoom link and any changes to the agenda.)

Send in your comments to ask the Woodfin Town Commission to ensure the following:

  1. For this project to move forward in a responsible manner, approval and permits for the construction of a new bridge over the French Broad River must be in hand before the developer breaks ground to reduce neighborhood traffic safety concerns and potential environmental impacts.
  2. The Developer agrees to additional stormwater measures that will protect water quality in the French Broad River.
  3. The Developer agrees to a forested buffer between the new development and the Richmond Hill Neighborhood.
  4. Woodfin’s development ordinances should be updated to ensure that future projects reflect the type of growth that residents want, not just what is easiest and most profitable for developers.

Written comments must be submitted within 24 hours of the May 18th meeting to be considered.

Commission members are: Adrienne Isenhower, planning director; Michael Saunders, planning staff; Mayor Jerry Vehaun; Woodfin Commissioners Debbie Glazentanner, Jackie J. Bryson, Donald Honeycutt, Donald Hensley, Ronnie Lunsford, and Jim Angel. Letters for public comment should be sent to clerk@woodfin-nc.gov. Public comment can also be made by calling 828-253-4887.

You can also donate to the Richmond Hill & River Rescue GoFundMe page. All financial contributions will help with the legal costs and hiring the necessary experts to testify against the potential major environmental impacts this mega project would bring. To donate directly through MountainTrue, list your donation as restricted for Richmond Hill & River Rescue. 


POINTS OF IMPACT
and ADDITIONAL TALKING POINTS

The proposal: Strategic Real Investment Partners LLC, a Tampa, Florida-based developer has submitted plans to construct 1,545 luxury residential condo units in Woodfin adjacent to Richmond Hill Park and on the banks of the French Broad River.

  • A massive luxury housing project like this will only make our region even less affordable. Studies show that building new luxury housing pushes up rents in surrounding neighborhoods and increases burdens on lower-income households.
  • Traffic will increase dramatically, affecting safety and planned multimodal improvements. The developer’s own traffic engineers estimate this development will generate well over 10,000 trips a day. These cars would use narrow, winding residential streets and Riverside Drive unless a proposed new bridge over the French Broad River is built.
  • The project could endanger rare salamander species. Neighboring Richmond Hill Park is home to two species designated by North Carolina as of “Special Concern” — the Mole Salamander and the Southern Zigzag Salamander. This property contains similar habitat so these salamanders could be present there as well.  We are unaware of any studies or wildlife inventories done in the project area.
  • The development will pollute the French Broad River. Removing trees and ground cover, grading steep slopes, and paving roads and parking lots will lead to polluted stormwater runoff into the French Broad River.  
  • Increased storm water runoff would endanger river recreation and public health. The project would be just upstream from a proposed $18 million whitewater wave and recreation park — a significant public investment.

The backbone of MountainTrue is member participation. Your membership connects you with vital information, strengthens the MountainTrue voice to policy makers, and financially supports our work.

DNA Testing Indicates Animal Agriculture and Sewer Infrastructure are Major Pollution Sources for French Broad River

DNA Testing Indicates Animal Agriculture and Sewer Infrastructure are Major Pollution Sources for French Broad River

DNA Testing Indicates Animal Agriculture and Sewer Infrastructure are Major Pollution Sources for French Broad River

MountainTrue’s French Broad Riverkeeper hopes science will inform policy solutions to clean up area waterways.

Asheville, NC — Testing conducted by local conservation organization MountainTrue has confirmed that cattle and faulty or inadequate sewer, septic or water treatment infrastructure are the major sources of E. coli pollution in the French Broad River.

MountainTrue’s French Broad Riverkeeper conducts regular water quality monitoring of rivers and streams throughout the French Broad River Basin, including weekly testing of more than 30 recreation areas from May to September. After decades of slow but consistent improvement to the basin’s water quality, the organization has documented a sharp decline in water quality.

“The difference over that past few years has been disturbing,” explains French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson. “Take Pearson Bridge in Asheville’s River Arts District: That site passed the EPA’s safe threshold for swimming 81% of the time in 2016. Just four years later, that site failed 81% of the time in 2020. Or Mud Creek in Henderson County, that site passed 52% of the time in 2018, and now it fails 93% of our tests.”

MountainTrue’s standard E. coli testing program measures the E. coli in the river. Levels in the French Broad have been high and rising year-over-year, but the nonprofit couldn’t say for certain what the sources of the pollution were. Determining the major sources of E. coli required more expensive testing to look at the presence of DNA in the river.

“Testing DNA in polluted water is pretty state-of-the-art and it isn’t cheap,” explains Hartwell Carson. “We needed help paying for it, so we approached Senator Chuck Edwards for help.” North Carolina Senator Edwards, whose district includes Henderson and parts of Buncombe County, helped secure state funding to pay for sampling and lab costs. With that funding, MountainTrue looked at the DNA found in 55 water samples to look for genetic fingerprints of E. coli from people, cows, dogs, poultry, sheep and swine.

“Our rivers are very important to our quality of life and our economy,” explains Senator Edwards. “This project is helping us better understand the causes of bacteria pollution in the French Broad River. We need that information to develop solutions that will keep the river clean.”

Of the 55 samples, 44 revealed DNA from cows. Human DNA was the second most prevalent. The results vary, but at nearly every site the primary sources of pollution were cattle followed by human. Dog DNA also showed up as a moderate contributor to E. coli pollution at a few sample sites.

“The French Broad has some clean and clear streams that run through protected public lands, but we’re seeing more and more problem sites that consistently fail the EPA’s safe water standard for E. coli,” says Hartwell Carson. “Until now, we’ve only had educated guesses about where the E. coli was coming from. With this testing, we have the data we need to make more informed decisions about how to clean up our rivers.”

MountainTrue is presenting the results from their DNA testing to local members of the General Assembly and is encouraging the public to advocate for the adoption of a clean rivers policy agenda that includes funding to help farmers, property owners and local governments reduce water pollution.

“Now that we know the sources of E. coli pollution,” says Hartwell Carson. “The next step is to invest in actions that fix the problem.” The public can read about issues affecting water quality, and the policies and reforms needed to fix them at iloverivers.org.

TAKE ACTION TO FIGHT E. COLI POLLUTION IN OUR RIVERS

We’ve done the DNA testing. We know the sources of E. coli pollution. Now we have the solutions to clean up our rivers. Stand up for science-based policies to help farmers fence cattle out of streams and property owners fix their septic systems and major investments in water infrastructure.

The Results:

MountainTrue focused their testing on problem sites that had shown high levels of E. coli in previous testing: Hominy Creek, Mud Creek below downtown Hendersonville, Cane Creek and the French Broad River at Pearson Bridge in Asheville’s River Arts District. DNA levels of 0-49 numbers of DNA copies/100mL are considered “very low,” 50-99 “low,” 100-499 “medium,” 500-999 “high,” and 1,000 or above was “very high.” DNA testing provides a general picture of a body of water for approximately 100 meters upstream.

Hominy Creek
Averages for six samples: Cow – 339, Dog, 89, Human – 34.
Every sample taken at Hominy Creek showed cow DNA counts at or above medium levels. The highest level of cow DNA recorded was 511, putting that sample in the high range. Human DNA was also found in every sample, though at low or very low amounts in all samples except one in the medium range. This indicates that upstream agriculture in the watershed is significantly contributing to E. coli impairment, and while human waste from faulty sewers and failing septic systems plays a role, it isn’t the dominant pollution source. This testing site is below the Hominy Creek Greenway, a very popular dog-walking area and the likely reason for higher levels of dog DNA.

French Broad at Pearson Bridge
Averages for six samples: Cow- 270, Dog – 59, Human – 67
Cow DNA was the largest contributor at this site, but levels were more varied than at Hominy Creek. One sample showed cow DNA in the high range at 764, while three other samples presented low levels of cow DNA. Human DNA and dog DNA were also present at this site but at much lower levels. The variability of DNA levels is likely due to the impact of stormwater runoff. When it rains, cow and dog waste are washed in from the surrounding landscape causing a rise in pollution levels.

Cane Creek at Fletcher Park
Averages for six samples: Cow – 334, Human – 47, Dog – 8
The primary source of E. coli pollution in Cane Creek is quite clearly cattle from area farms. Human levels of DNA were very low and nonexistent in two instances.

Mud Creek below Downtown Hendersonville
Average for seven samples: Cow – 251, Human – 120, Dog – 52
Mud Creek was the site with the highest level of human DNA in all our testing. But, even here, levels of cow DNA were more prevalent than human. In three instances, human DNA counties were higher, but the overall average for cow DNA was higher. The pollution sources for Mud Creek are likely cattle, closely followed by human waste from faulty sewers, failing septic systems and inadequate wastewater treatment plants.

About MountainTrue
MountainTrue champions resilient forests, clean waters and healthy communities. We are committed to keeping our mountain region a beautiful place to live, work and play. Our members protect our forests, clean up our rivers, plan vibrant and livable communities, and advocate for a sound and sustainable future for all. MountainTrue is active in the Broad, French Broad, Green, Hiwassee, Little Tennessee, New and Watauga watersheds, and is home to the Broad Riverkeeper, French Broad Riverkeeper, Green Riverkeeper, and Watauga Riverkeeper.
Mountaintrue.org


Media Contact:
Karim Olaechea, MountainTrue Communications Director
E: karim@mountaintrue.org, C: 415-535-9004


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.

Stand Up Against the Asphalt Plant Proposed for East Flat Rock!

Stand Up Against the Asphalt Plant Proposed for East Flat Rock!

Stand Up Against the Asphalt Plant Proposed for East Flat Rock!

Update: SE Asphalt Renews Its Effort to Build an Asphalt Plant in Residential Area.

On April 15, our community successfully organized to get the Henderson County Planning Board to recommend that the County Commissioners deny the asphalt plant proposal. Thanks to everyone who turned out to make this possible!

Now we turn to the Henderson County Board of Commissioners, who will make the final decision. Will you keep up the momentum by contacting the Henderson County Board of Commissioners below?

What You Can Do

1. May 17, 5 pm: Attend the Board of Commissioners public meeting where the final decision will be made!

Henderson Board of Commissioners Public Hearing
Blue Ridge Community College, Thomas Auditorium
180 Campus Drive
Flat Rock, NC 28731
May 17, 2021 at 5 PM
Notice of Public Hearing

2. Write a public comment to the Henderson County Board of Commissioners using the form below. When you’re finished, your message will automatically be sent to the County Commissioners.

 

More About The Asphalt Plant

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.

Now is the time to stand up, speak out, and put a stop to this pollution factory before it even gets started! Join us in the fight!


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.

The Not-So-Micro Issue of Microplastics

The Not-So-Micro Issue of Microplastics

The Not-So-Micro Issue of Microplastics

By Hannah Woodburn, High Country Water Quality Administrator of MountainTrue

While we see it everywhere, mass-produced plastic has only existed since the 1950’s. Not only does producing plastic create greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, but our air, food and water systems are becoming increasingly contaminated with tiny pieces of plastic – called microplastics – that are a concern for ecosystem and human health.

Microplastics are defined as being smaller than 5mm and enter our freshwater systems through runoff and industrial processes. They can be purposefully designed to be small (think microbeads), or they can be fragments of larger items like tires, fishing line, water bottles and synthetic clothing.

So How Did We Get Here?

The amount of plastic created worldwide has increased from 1.5 million metric tons in 1950 to 359 million metric tons in 2018. Plastic materials are derived from ethane, a natural gas product, and are extracted using a method called fracking. Every stage of plastic production results in greenhouse gas emissions, releasing a variety of pollutants during the process. Further, the US is the top producer and exporter of ethane in the world, and our plastic production is currently projected to double by 2050.

While plastics do represent a milestone in technological and chemical development, between 26-40% of all plastics are made with the intention to be single-use items – like food packaging, bottles, cups, plastic bags, housewares and cosmetic packaging. This poses a great environmental concern, especially when only 6.6% of all the plastic produced in 2018 was recycled and only a small portion of plastic can actually be recycled in the first place: items marked 1, 2, and sometimes 5.

Left: Sampling for microplastics at the MountainTrue lab. Right: This tiny red fiber that showed up in our microplastics sampling is smaller than .5mm, and likely from a piece of fishing line or synthetic clothing. 

How We Sample For Plastics

MountainTrue has started sampling for plastics on the French Broad, Green and Watauga Rivers, and will begin plastics sampling on the Hiwassee River this spring. For the macroplastics portion, we ask volunteers to collect trash and record how long they were there, what types of plastic they find, what brands are most prevalent, the number of pieces collected in total and how much time the volunteers sampled for.

To assess the presence of microplastics, which are often too small for the naked eye to see, volunteers take a water sample at each site in a one-quart glass jar and bring them back to our lab. We then process the water samples via vacuum filtration, look at the filter paper underneath a microscope and record the number of microplastics found in each sample.

What Can You Do?

Personal change is important, but our consumer choices alone are not enough to spark systemic change. We cannot “recycle” our way out of this issue.

We need to ask our legislators to help protect our communities and ecosystems from single-use plastics. The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act was introduced to Congress in 2020, but did not make it to a floor vote. However, this bill will be reintroduced this month, and it provides a comprehensive plan to eliminate single-use plastics at a federal level. We encourage you to take action and sign the petition asking President Biden to be a #PlasticFreePresident here.

#PlasticFreePresident Action Items That President Biden Can Take Without Congress:

1. Use the purchasing power of the federal government to eliminate single use plastic items and replace them with reusable items.
Suspend and deny permits for new or expanded plastic production facilities

2. Make corporate polluters pay and reject false solutions

3. Advance environmental justice in petrochemical corridors

4. Update existing federal regulations to curtail pollution from plastic facilities by using best available science and technology

5. Stop subsidizing plastic producers

6. Join international efforts to address global plastic pollution

7. Reduce and mitigate the impacts of discarded and lost fishing gear

 


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.

Help Make the Pigeon River Healthier

Help Make the Pigeon River Healthier

Help Make the Pigeon River Healthier

Speak up for stricter discharge permits and a healthier and cleaner Pigeon River. Email DEQ with better recommendations today.

Blue Ridge Paper Products has a long history on the Pigeon River in Canton. It has provided good quality jobs for decades, but also caused significant environmental impacts to the Pigeon River. Because of the pressure brought to bear from the public, environmental groups and the EPA, significant improvements in the amount and quality of the discharge to the river have been obtained, but we have a long way to go.

The goals of the Clean Water Act are to have all waters be fishable and swimmable. The way that regulators have tried to achieve those goals while balancing the interests and needs of industry is by slowly reducing permit discharge limits over time. The draft permit as proposed by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) takes a step backwards by weakening regulations, requiring less monitoring and allowing for more pollution to be discharged to the river.

We are calling on the public to make their voice heard for continued improvements at the mill, so the Pigeon River can finally meet the goals of the Clean Water Act, almost 50 years after its passage. Attend and speak at the public hearing and submit comments to DEQ.

Update: The NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is postponing the public hearing until April 14 and extending the period for public comments until April 30.

What you can do

    1. Provide Public Comment via email to the Department of Environmental Quality.
      The public comment period has been extended until April 30. Take action today.
    2. Speak up at the online public hearing:
      You must register by noon on April 14. Click here for registration and hearing details.

    Resources

    Talking Points

    Temperature: Over 8,500 fish were killed in the summer of 2007 from an extremely hot discharge from the paper mill. This hot water discharge did not violate the temperature permit limits at the mill, because their limits during that time relied on a monthly average, which allows wild swings in the temperature of the discharge, and potential fish kills. Data from the NC Wildlife Resources Commission shows a substantial impact of aquatic life between  up and downstream monitoring, and temperature is a likely factor in the reduced diversity and abundance of aquatic life downstream of the mill.   MountainTrue, with the help of SELC and Clean Water for NC fought and won weekly monitoring limits in the last permit cycle, but those limits are being rolled back to a monthly average. We believe daily monitoring and a daily average limit for temperature is critical to understanding and protecting the Pigeon River. Now is not the time to roll back protections for the river!

    Dioxin: Reduction in dioxin fish monitoring in the draft permit is being proposed. Current monitoring requires monitoring 3 times in 5 years, but the new draft permit reduces that to once every 5 years. This is problematic for two reasons. The most recent sampling conducted in 2014 still shows dioxin in fish tissue, and therefore monitoring on at least the same schedule should be continued until  dioxin is no longer present in fish tissue samples. Secondly, the permit renewal cycle is many years overdue, the last fish tissue sample was taken over six years ago. That means, if new sampling is conducted only once in the next five years, that could mean that we only have one sample in 11 years. For these reasons we call on DEQ to continue the same sampling schedule of three times within every five years.

    Fecal Coliform: The mill not only processes its own waste, but also serves as a wastewater treatment plant for the town of Canton. Violations for fecal coliform have been frequent in the last decade with MountainTrue documenting at least 25 permit violations, sometimes in excess of 250 times the safe limit for fecal coliform. The Mill has also commonly violated its permitted standards for total suspended solids and biological oxygen demand. There is an urgent need for significant improvements to the wastewater treatment plant to ensure the river and downstream river recreation users are protected from harmful and dangerous levels of bacteria in the river.

    Chloroform: DEQ is proposing to allow the mill to increase their discharge of chloroform, a possible carcinogen. This is to an internal discharge point, so we need additional information to determine how much of this discharge is reaching the Pigeon River. The goal of the Clean Water Act is to reduce pollution discharges until all waters are fishable and swimmable. In this instance, not only is the discharge not decreasing, but the mill will be allowed to discharge even more cancer causing chemicals into the Pigeon River. The 2010 permit allowed for chloroform discharge allowances of 5.1 lb/day (as monthly average) or 8.6 lb/day (daily maximum). The 2021 proposed permit ups those limits to 6.27 lb/day (as a monthly average) and 10.5 lb/day (daily maximum). DEQ should be reducing those allowance, not letting the papermill pollute more.


The backbone of MountainTrue is member participation. Your membership connects you with vital information, strengthens the MountainTrue voice to policy makers, and financially supports our work.

Protect The Watauga River From Another Sewage Treatment Plant

Protect The Watauga River From Another Sewage Treatment Plant

 

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.