MT Raleigh Report: How Legislative Advocacy Helped Us Track Down E. coli Pollution


At MountainTrue, we spend a lot of time thinking and talking about water – how to keep it clean, where and how it’s being polluted and how to clean it up.

That’s true not only home in Western North Carolina, but also in Raleigh, where clean water initiatives are always at the top of our legislative agenda.

When it comes to water pollution, E. coli is a huge part of the problem. E. coli is a type of bacteria that typically lives in the stomachs of humans and animals, and exposure to it in water can cause intestinal infection, diarrhea and even kidney failure.

Our Water Team conducts regular water quality monitoring of the French Broad, Green, Watauga, Broad, Elk, Hiwassee, New and Nottely Rivers. On the French Broad River in particular, our data showed a sharp increase in E. coli levels several years ago – but while we knew E. coli was spiking, we couldn’t say for certain where it was coming from. We needed funding to do more sensitive eDNA testing and determine the major sources of E. coli in the river.

That’s when our lobbying effort in Raleigh kicked in.

The French Broad River flows through a good portion of Senator Chuck Edwards’ district, which includes Henderson and Transylvania counties and portions of Buncombe County. Senator Edwards also chairs one of the Senate appropriations committees that deals with funding for natural resources. With his help and some effective lobbying, in 2018 the Senate included a $100,000 appropriation for water quality testing in the French Broad River.

This spring, the results of that testing made headlines across WNC: showing that the main source of E. coli in the French Broad River is agricultural runoff from cattle farms, followed by inadequate sewer, septic or wastewater treatment systems. MountainTrue shared this data to kick off a region-wide grassroots advocacy campaign to educate the public about E. coli pollution. And we’re asking our supporters to call on their elected officials to support funding to help farmers, property owners and local governments keep their pollution out of the river.

In Raleigh, we are combining this grassroots support with advocacy inside the legislative building to find more funding for clean water in Western North Carolina. We’re so appreciative of the support you and others provide to make our legislative advocacy possible. Thank you for being part of this important process!

For more information about our water testing efforts and advocacy, visit