site underconstruction
stwooten sign
coal ash hand Duke Settlement On Coal Ash Spill

A Wake County judge Friday, February 12, 2016,  questioned the legality of part of an agreement between the state's environmental agency and Duke Energy reached last fall to settle complaints about years of groundwater contamination as reported in by Anne Blythe of The News & Observer. Judge Paul Ridgeway presided over the hearing in which environmental organizations argued that a state administrative law judge overstepped his authority when he approved a $7 million settlement last year between the Department of Environmental Quality and Duke. "This order has language that in my view goes beyond resolving a penalties case," Judge Ridgeway told attorneys. The environmental law attorneys contended the agreement prevented the state from enforcing groundwater pollution laws at the utility's 14 leaking coal ash sites. The environmental lawyers called it a sweetheart deal. Not only was the fine less than a third of the initial $25 million the state had planned to impose, they said, the agreement covered groundwater remediation plans at sites that were not part of the case. Judge Ridgeway agreed that Phil Berger Jr., the administrative law judge who presided over a hearing on that agreement, touched on issues in his order that were not part of his purview, particularly regarding how pollution would be removed from sites that are part of other pending court cases. Judge Ridgeway, who has presided over other Duke coal-ash cases, said he thought any settlement in a long-running case was "a positive step" but was troubled. "I do find that the circumstances of this agreement -- and quite frankly the insistence of clinging to the language of this agreement -- is disturbing," Judge Ridgeway said. "I have to suspect that there's some ulterior motive."

Judge Ridgeway's decision is unlikely to hold up the $7 million fine, but it could have an impact on how Duke and the state collaborate on groundwater remediation at other North Carolina sites. It was unclear what the next steps would be for Duke and the state. But they said they planned to ask Judge Berger to amend the 2015 settlement order. A spokeswoman for DEQ said "the settlement explicitly provides for the remediation of groundwater under North Carolina's groundwater standards as included in the coal ash management law. To read the document as in some way circumventing the requirement to clean up groundwater is absurd." Duke said in a statement that it was "interested in resolving legal matters, allowing the company to continue to focus on safely closing ash basins. SELC needs to take yes for an answer, rather than seeking another legal podium to tie this issue up in court”.
Contaminated Water

Contamination  of well water with heavy metals exists already near the abandoned clay mine where Duke Energy plans to store coal ash.   Lee County interim health director Heath Cain said Friday, February 12, 2016,  that more than a dozen homes within half a mile of the site have been warned not to drink or cook with their well water. Tests found hexavalent chromium and vanadium. Both appear along with mercury and arsenic in coal ash, the toxic waste left after coal is burned to generate electricity. Lee officials last fall began testing wells before Duke Energy begins moving about eight million tons of coal ash from storage pits to the abandoned clay mine. Director Cain says they don't know the source of the contamination, which also has shown up in some surface ponds or creeks.

DSCF4378 Water Pollution Rules

A top state environmental regulator told state lawmakers Wednesday, February 10, 2016,  that they should consider easing some water pollution rules because it's unclear whether they're working as intended. Laura Leslie of WRAL reported on the appearance of Deputy Environment Secretary Tom Reeder before the  Environmental Review Commission that the Department of Environmental Quality is looking at regulations that govern buffers around smaller streams, as well as laws requiring the reduction of nutrient runoff into Falls and Jordan lakes. The state has been directed by federal regulators to reduce runoff into those "impaired" lakes because they exceed limits for "total maximum daily load" of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphate, leading to high levels of chlorophyll-A, a type of algae. More stringent rules for Falls Lake are due to take effect in 2021, and the Jordan Lake Rules have been largely delayed since 2007. Mr. Reeder said local governments and private citizens have spent millions to reduce pollution from "point sources" such as water treatment plants as well as "non-point sources" such as runoff from residential or agricultural property. But he said there's no clear evidence that the efforts are having the intended effect.

Mr. Reeder presented data from the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico basins that show little change in phosphorus and nitrogen levels after runoff and buffer rules were implemented. He also referred to a General Accounting Office report showing that 80 percent of impaired water systems around the country are struggling to meet required reductions in nutrient runoff. "I don't know if the technology exists today to actually resolve these problems," he said. He recommended that lawmakers rethink the 50-foot buffer requirement for smaller "intermittent" streams, which do not always have water. State law requires that the first 30 feet of buffer from a stream's edge be left largely in its natural state. The next 20 feet can be "managed vegetation." Mr. Reeder estimated the two basins together include more than 10,000 miles of intermittent streams. The buffers, he estimated, add up to about 98 square miles in the Tar-Pamlico basin and 137 square miles in the Neuse basin. The regulator told the panel that buffers are "very controversial" and have "caused a lot of heartburn" for property owners.

As  a longtime advocate for buffers, I raised the issue that, since their implementation, the state hasn't seen any more of the fish kills it witnessed in the Neuse River in the 1990s. I asked Mr. Reeder whether changing runoff regulations would make the state non-compliant with the federal Clean Water Act. "What could the EPA do, anyway, because it's not working anywhere?" Mr. Reeder said. "If they could show us an example of what works, I'd be happy to do that. The EPA doesn't know what to do either." Groups representing local governments and businesses spoke in favor of changing water rules. Upper Neuse River Basin Association director Forrest Westall urged lawmakers to reconsider the science behind the Falls Lake Rules, which require what he called "extraordinary" reductions in runoff nutrients. Although he said progress has been made, he added that buffers "have caused a lot of friction in our citizens over use of land." Director Westall encouraged the panel to seek a change in the lake's federal regulatory standard to its "intended use." "That lake is being fished today, it's being swum today, it's providing drinking water to a half-million people -- it's meeting its intended uses," he said. But environmental advocates warned against easing the rules. Tom Bean with the North Carolina Wildlife Federation compared relaxing the rules to taking off a seat belt while driving, and Upper Neuse Riverkeeper Matthew Starr called Mr. Reeder's conclusions about the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico basins "grossly inaccurate." "What he's not including is the [nutrient] loading from the hog industry and the poultry industry. What would that look like if the stormwater controls weren't there?" Mr. Starr said.
cc courthouse vfa 1 Here are 21 A-to-Z highlights of what the Chatham County Board of Commissioners accomplished in 2015:

1.  Affordable Housing. This complicated issue involves low-income rentals, housing for purchase, repairs to dilapidated homes, as well as temporary housing such as shelters.  We had a two-day facilitated workshop on this issue to help us clarify our goals as a Board, and figure out some next steps.  Our Council on Aging took a leadership role in getting non-profit providers together to discuss their specific repair services and population served.  In the near future: A clearinghouse for people to find out what repair services might be available to seniors, disabled, and veterans.

Chatham Housing Authority.  Although the Housing Authority is funded by U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development and operates the Section 8 rental housing voucher program, there is an issue with people not being able to afford security and utility deposits along with first month’s rent.  Chatham County has 470 vouchers to subsidize low-income individuals and families in rental housing.  The Housing Authority asked the County in November to provide $13,000 for a revolving fund that would guarantee security deposits for 20 new renters.  This allows a new renter to pay a portion of the security deposit over 6 to 24 months along with their monthly rent.  Since all renters must take household budgeting classes, this guarantees that the fund will continue to be repaid.  The Housing Authority has organized a new 501c3 non-profit called the Chatham Housing Initiative to operate the loan fund and hopes to become a one-stop to assist homeless people and individuals needing temporary housing by coordinating and working with community service providers.

by Tim Keim

havenintohaw1 Mud From Chatham Park Flowing Into The Haw River The unreasonable and totally inadequate notion that simply rallying around
Chatham Park’s massive development will
make it better, and we will all live happily ever after, is false. This glib sales job
ignores the nuts and bolts of the massive
destruction of the systems that help keep
us healthy. Read article here

cp sign up down The current discussions to build an $18 million sewer line to Sanford in order to accommodate the build out of Chatham Park puts the cart before the horse. Vital information about the impacts Chatham Park will have on this area is missing. I urge you to require Chatham Park to submit a full Environmental Impact Assessment for the total  7,200 project acres.  The current piecemeal approach through small area plans is completely inadequate.  We have no idea what the true costs to the water quality of the Haw River and Jordan Lake will be, or the impact on the the Lower Haw River State Natural Area, a true jewel in Chatham County.  We need to know the full direct, secondary and cumulative impacts that Chatham Park will have.  Only a full EIA will reveal those facts.

We also urge you the establish and appoint members as soon as possible to a citizen advisory committee that would represent the great knowledge and diversity of our community as these critical decisions are being made.
voller pink Pittsboro developer and former Mayor Randy Voller has been convening and facilitating a series of closed-door meetings between Chatham Park Investors (CPI) Tim Smith and Bubba Rawl and elected officials and staff from Pittsboro and Chatham County, and our state legislators. The stated purpose of these meetings has been for CPI to solicit help in using a variety of complicated and risky public financing tools to pay for an $18 million sewer line to Sanford, with half of the capacity designed to exclusively serve Chatham Park’s future businesses and residences.
S ut legacymixing Small Stream From The Legacy At Jordan Lake, 2015 ummary of Findings and Conclusions
Based on a review of more than 1,200 publications from the peer-reviewed scientific literature, this final report reviews and summarizes the scientific
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Research and Development
evidence regarding the effects that streams, nontidal wetlands and open waters have on larger downstream waters such as rivers, lakes, estuaries, and oceans. The final report contains 5 major conclusions:

 The scientific literature unequivocally demonstrates that streams, regardless of their size or frequency of flow, are connected to downstream waters and strongly influence their function.

 The scientific literature clearly shows that wetlands and open waters in riparian areas (transitional areas between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems) and floodplains are physically, chemically, and biologically integrated with rivers via functions that improve downstream water quality. These systems act as effective buffers to protect downstream waters from pollution and are essential components of river food webs.

 There is ample evidence that many wetlands and open waters located outside of riparian areas and floodplains, even when lacking surface water connections, provide physical, chemical, and biological functions that could affect the integrity of downstream waters. Some potential benefits of these wetlands are due to their isolation rather than their connectivity. Evaluations of the connectivity and effects of individual wetlands or groups of wetlands are possible through case-by-case analysis.