As Waterkeepers, we work to ensure every community has access to drinkable, fishable, swimmable water. And as a Riverkeeper organization working in the Carolinas, we are keenly aware of many of the issues facing vulnerable communities in our own backyards.
This excellent article published by Waterkeepers Carolina, of which our Riverkeepers are a part, highlights the roots of the modern environmental justice movement in North Carolina.
North Carolina’s Environmental Justice Roots Run Deep
Winyah Rivers Alliance is actively involved in protecting vulnerable communities with the North Carolina watersheds over which we watch.
North Carolina’s Lumber River Basin:
In North Carolina’s Lumber River Basin, that includes the Waccamaw, the Lumber and the Little Pee Dee watersheds, our Waccamaw Riverkeeper and our Lumber Riverkeeper are part of Waterkeeper Alliance’s and Waterkeepers Carolina North Carolina Pure Farms Pure Waters Campaign.
Many of the water quality issues we face in our respective watersheds are the result of impacts from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) and other livestock issues. Many of these CAFOs are located in communities of color whose families have to deal with odor, flies and other major nuisances to their quality of life in their rural communities.
Our Riverkeepers are regularly in the field collecting water samples for analysis to determine whether nutrients and/or bacteria are present in waterways near these CAFOs. We bring our findings to the attention of the local regulators as well as advocating for legislative priorities with the goal of improving water quality across the state and supporting NC farmers.
In the Lumber River watershed (part of the Lumber River Basin), we are working with the community of South Lumberton to address problems identified at a planned wood pellet facility.
Our investigations revealed that Active Energy Renewable Power’s facility was operating without the appropriate permits to control pollution from its activities. So we have taken action to make sure the company obtains proper permit coverage for its operations. We also want the regulatory agency to complete a full environmental justice evaluation of this proposed operation and nearby industrial activities that impact this community of color.
Pee Dee River:
In North Carolina’s Pee Dee River watershed, we are concerned about the air, water and environmental justice issues facing the town of Hamlet and the Dobbins Heights community in Richmond County because of a proposed pyrolysis facility (rapid thermal decomposition in the absence of oxygen). The company is currently seeking an air permit to “burn” creosote treated railroad ties.
We have concerns not only about the potential air emissions and their impacts on the nearby communities but also on the potential for impacts on local water quality. For example, the local municipal water supply is only ~ 2500 feet from the industrial site. And we’re questioning the potential for impacts to the underlying groundwater and nearby residential wells as well as possible pollutants in stormwater runoff and what process wastewater or other waste streams will be discharged/transported from the facility.
The communities located nearby are characterized by poor health outcomes, representative of African American and Native American communities, many of which are living in poverty. And the area has a number of other industrial facilities, including a wood pellet plant directly across the street from the proposed site. Placing another dirty industry in this area presents serious consequences to these vulnerable communities and those environmental justice issues must be fully addressed by the regulators.
We take on this work to ensure that our local rivers are protected to the fullest extent of the law and that the health of our rivers and the communities that rely on them for drinking, fishing and swimming are protected.
Or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
P.O. Box 554
Conway, SC 29528
843 .349 .4007
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