Environment

Marshes, Key To Coastal Health, Have A Tipping Point

Mar 20, 2019
Anna Braswell

With sea turtles, fish and birds splashing around in the morning sunlight, marshes that line the American coast might appear peaceful and primordial. But forces both natural and manmade are constantly acting upon them, jeopardizing the survival of these critical ecosystems. New research analyzed the influences that cause marshes to become more “fringy” and sparse, pointing the way for scientists to prioritize interventions and restoration efforts.

In the northern California foothills, the town of Paradise was almost completely destroyed by last fall's Camp Fire. But sprinkled across the ruins, there are now a few signs of life as homeowners and contractors begin the rebuilding process.

Jim and Colleen Corner's place looks like a post-apocalyptic homestead. The neighborhood's been depopulated. Block after block of ruins. Torched vehicles. Hulking pines, many dead, have yet to topple.

A picture of an American Robin.
Deja Perkins / NC State University

North Carolina State University researchers are seeking volunteers to help conduct a bird population survey in the Triangle's urban centers.

The Cape Fear river continued to rise due to rainfall Hurricane Florence
Ben McKeown / For WUNC

Six months ago Hurricane Florence battered the Carolinas and doused the region for days with heavy rains. The historic storm broke 18 flood records across North Carolina, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Coastal communities remain in recovery mode, with businesses attempting to finish repairs by the next tourist season and residents still trying to navigate complex housing, insurance and unemployment processes.

A bear cub in a green leafy tree.
NC State University

Can humans and black bears coexist? This question has become increasingly relevant in North Carolina as both the human and bear populations continue to grow. Black bears now live on about 60 percent of the state’s land and are very adaptable to different climates, which has led to an increase in human run-ins with black bears over the past two decades. 

The Blue Ridge Parkway has lost its spot atop the rankings of the most visited national parks.
National Park Service

The Blue Ridge Parkway has lost its spot atop the rankings of the most visited national parks.

Courtesy of Bryant Holsenbeck

Remember that resolution to stop eating junk food, or scaling back on late night treats, or promising to recycle more? Nearly ten years ago, Bryant Holsenbeck made a commitment to giving up single-use plastic for an entire year. 

Post Florence, NC Farmers Turned To Compost To Clean Up

Feb 25, 2019
Chicken farm buildings are inundated with floodwater from Hurricane Florence near Trenton, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018.
Steve Helber / AP

When Hurricane Florence dumped record-breaking rains on North Carolina last year, poultry farmers took a hit. An estimated 4.2 million chickens and turkeys died in floodwaters.

Courtesy of Edwin Castellanos

When thousands of Central Americans moved en masse toward the border between Mexico and the U.S. in 2018, violence and poverty were named as the culprits behind the immigrants’ journey. But according to Edwin Castellanos, another factor could be just as much to blame. 

An image of the NPS sound map of the contiguous United States.
National Park Service

Got a neighbor who loves to run their deafening leaf blower at full blast? Even if you don't, the noise pollution in your neighborhood could be impacting the health of people and nearby wildlife there.

Now, scientists at North Carolina State University are creating a map of the natural and man-made noises in Raleigh and Durham, and they want your help.

A picture of a shrimp trawler.
NOAA Fishwatch / Wikipedia

The shrimping industry is booming as more of the crustaceans are being harvested farther north and later in the season.

A crane lays the final girder on the Bonner Bridge replacement project.
Jamison Padgett / PCL Construction

Dare County officials are seeking suggestions for a new name for the bridge that spans the Oregon Inlet.

The current bridge is named for Herbert C. Bonner, a U.S. Congressman from North Carolina who served from 1940 until 1965. Bonner was instrumental in getting the bridge project off the ground.

Red circles show earthquake epicenters in the eastern United States from 1972-2012
Courtesy of Scott Marshall / Appalachian State University

There was a 2.2 magnitude earthquake west of Asheville earlier this week.

For the second year in a row, North Carolina homeowners quickly snapped up all of Duke Energy's rebates for installing solar panels.

File photo of a protest sign in front of Chemours' President of Fluoroproducts Paul Kirsch during a community meeting hosted by the chemical company Chemours at Faith Tabernacle Christian Center in St. Pauls, N.C. on Tuesday, June 12, 2018.
Ben McKeown / WUNC

This week the Wilmington City Council is expected to vote on a consent order between the North Carolina State Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Chemours that would require Chemours to pay $13 million in fines and fees and provide drinking water to the area surrounding its Fayetteville plant. 

UPDATE: Council is now expected to vote on the resolution at the Jan. 22 meeting. The Wilmington City Council is expected to take up the Chemours – Department of Environmental Quality consent order at their meeting this week.  The agreement was announced just before Thanksgiving.  It requires Chemours to pay a $12 million dollar fine and $1 million in fees to cover investigative costs for DEQ.  Opposition to the plan is growing.   

Curtis J. Richardson, director of the Duke University Wetland Center.
Jason deBruyn / WUNC

On Duke University's campus, near the Washington Duke Inn, there's a wetland area that reduces stormwater flooding and improves water quality. Curtis J. Richardson, director of the Duke University Wetland Center and professor in the Nicholas School of the Environment, spearheaded the project.

an offshore drilling operation in the Gulf of Mexico
Robert Seale, Maersk Drilling / Flickr, Creative Commons, https://flic.kr/p/mU1Qdz

The conversation about offshore drilling has intensified after the Trump Administration appeared to give initial approval for seismic testing in the Atlantic.

Rickey Langley with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services shows residents where PFOS and PFOA has been found at a recent public information meeting.
Naomi Prioleau / WUNC

Environmental and health officials are testing wells around the Piedmont Triad International airport in Greensboro. They’re looking for chemicals referred to as PFOS and PFOA.

A sign at the entrance of the Fayetteville Works site on N.C. 87 in Bladen County, North Carolina.
Rusty Jacobs / WUNC

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality is accepting public comment over the next few weeks on a proposed consent order with a chemical company responsible for polluting the Cape Fear River and private wells near its Fayetteville plant.

Nags Head
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

A new climate assessment report from the White House forecasts devastating economic and health impacts for the United States. Thirteen federal agencies and the U.S. Global Change Research Program issued the report, which is required by Congress every four years. The report contains a chapter on the Southeast that predicts higher sea levels, coastal flooding, stronger storms, and longer and more frequent heat waves. 

This photo taken Friday, June 15, 2018 shows the Chemours Company's PPA facility at the Fayetteville Works plant near Fayetteville, N.C. where the chemical known as GenX is produced. The chemical has been found in the Cape Fear River, a source of drinking
Gerry Broome / AP

State environmental officials have obtained a consent order which calls on a North Carolina chemical plant to reduce emissions of a compound and pay a $12 million civil penalty.

Cape Fear River at Raven Rock State Park NC
Keith Weston / WUNC

Blood tests of New Hanover County residents showed no GenX, but they did reveal several newly-identified perfluorinated compounds. On Tuesday officials held a public meeting in New Hanover County to explain the test results.

This week participants in a GenX exposure study began receiving their test results. Some 345 New Hanover County residents took part in the study, giving blood, urine, and tap water samples late last year.  The  North Carolina State researchers behind the study are in Wilmington this week to explain the results.

A picture of a poultry house.
Joe Valbuena / USDA

On Tuesday another hog nuisance lawsuit opened in federal court featuring neighbors of a swine farm in Sampson County who complained of smells and noise among other nuisances. These nuisance lawsuits have drawn lots of public attention to the issues of hog waste management.

File photo of rising flood waters brought on by Hurricane Florence that threatened a building off highway 70 in Goldsboro, N.C., Sunday, Sep. 16, 2018.
Ben McKeown / For WUNC

A federal report shows Hurricane Florence broke records in a key flooding measure at more than two-dozen stream gauges in the Carolinas.

In this Sept. 2, 2016, file photo, a friend's basket of clams sit in the water as Mike Suprin, of Rollinsford, N.H., calls it a day after filling his basket with softshell clams at Cape Porpoise in Kennebunkport, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Valuable species of shellfish have become harder to find on the East Coast because of degraded habitat caused by a warming environment, according to a pair of scientists that sought to find out whether environmental factors or overfishing was the source of the decline.

Sea level change over time
Global Climate Change / NASA

Gov. Roy Cooper has signed an executive order that directs the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2025. It's a move that some other state and local governments have taken since President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Accord.

Smithfield Foods promised to cut emissions.
humanesociety.org

A major pork producer in North Carolina will address the industry's vulnerability to climate change. The move has won praise from one environmental advocacy group but scorn from another.

The Environmental Defense Fund applauded Smithfield Foods for the company's 10-year plan to capture 85,000 tons of methane per year and generate renewable energy from biogas.

A picture of a coal ash pond.
Waterkeeper Alliance

How does coal ash impact human health? A new review of existing research shows a link between living close to a coal power plant or coal ash pond and higher risks of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, as well as higher risks of premature mortality, lung cancer, infant mortality, and poor child health. The research does not draw a direct link between these conditions and coal ash. 

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