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NC Falls Behind Federal Water Quality Standards

The Tuckasegee River at Bryson City, North Carolina.
Brian Stansberry, Wikimedia, Creative Commons

North Carolina is not keeping up with the Environmental Protection Agency's rules to measure water quality. 

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources has not updated its standards of measuring toxic metals in water since 2007.  The Clean Water Act requires states to hold public hearings and review their rules every three years.  North Carolina is the only state in the EPA's southeast division that has not adopted the latest federal rules. 

State Division of Water Resources spokeswoman Susan Massengale says the agency prefers to evaluate how pollution is affecting or could affect water quality before imposing new regulations on municipal or industrial wastewater treatment plants.

"What we're trying to do is balance environmental impact with what can be substantial financial requirements for upgrading of systems to eliminate certain kinds of metals," Massengale says.

"We need to be responsible and look at the individual situations to make sure that there's actually an impact rather than require them to have high-dollar upgrades where they really aren't having any effect."

Massengale says changes to state laws have also made it tougher to review and pass new rules.  DENR plans to request public hearings from the Environmental Management Commission when it meets next month.

Will Michaels is WUNC's Weekend Host and Reporter.
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