Water Quality

Clouds sit low on North Carolina mountains.
Flickr, Peter Miller

The Environmental Protection Agency relaxed environmental standards during the coronavirus pandemic. The agency says it is suspending civil penalties temporarily because of potential worker shortages, social distancing mandates and travel restrictions. But the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality says state rules still apply. 

Sign that reads: Water Filtration Facility, 7441 Poplar Springs Church Road Sanford, NC 27330
Greg Barnes

Research on chemical pollutants in North Carolina’s rivers and streams is stacking up, and the results are unnerving.

 Photo of Greensboro downtown skyline.
Courtesy Flickr/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/ucumari/306972641

Greensboro city officials are looking into high levels of a likely-carcinogenic chemical compound identified at the city’s wastewater treatment plant. The levels of 1,4 dioxane in the wastewater were more than 2,700 times the EPA limit for drinking water.

A water fountain inside a hallway at a school at Chapel Hill Carrboro Public Schools.
Brian Batista / For WUNC

Even low levels of lead can cause harm to children, but 22 states, including North Carolina, don’t require schools and day cares to test the levels of lead in children’s drinking water.

Several communities in rural North Carolina struggle with water infrastructure maintenance.
Courtesy of Flickr user mycieau

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers is rolling out a bill that would require school districts and child care facilities to conduct routine testing of their water fountains for possible contaminants. 

The proposal comes after Mecklenburg and Guilford Counties recently did voluntary tests of their water, and found elevated levels of lead in taps at dozens of schools.

a blue water well
Let Ideas Compete / Flickr, Creative Commons, https://flic.kr/p/7VkN8Y

Researchers from UNC Chapel Hill and the nonprofit RTI international want to study the prevalence of lead in private wells in Wake County.

Photo of Michael Scott at microphone
Rusty Jacobs / WUNC

Last week state officials held a public forum in Bladen County to share information and address concerns about GenX, the unregulated chemical produced by Chemours that has contaminated drinking water. Many residents said they left with more questions than answers.

a spash of water
Kev Lewis / Flickr, Creative Commons, https://flic.kr/p/dsd82n

Officials with Greensboro's Division of Water Resources are monitoring a water facility in the city.

A map from NC State show “hot spots” denoting high concentrations of manganese in North Carolina well water.
NC State University

North Carolina State University researchers estimate that thousands of North Carolina residents and more than 1 million residents in the southeast have high levels of manganese  in their well water. Manganese is found naturally in soil, but studies have linked long-term exposure to health problems, including cancer and heart defects.

New Guide Helps Local Anglers Avoid Polluted Waterways

Jul 2, 2016
eatfishwisely.org

Researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill are helping local fishermen identify which fish are most likely to be contaminated by chemical pollutants, and where it’s safer to eat what they catch.

The new website, Eat Fish, Choose Wisely, maps out waterways and fish species with lower levels of contamination, along with some that should be avoided entirely.

New Maps Detail Scope Of NC's Poultry And Hog Industries

Jun 24, 2016
A hog waste lagoon in Beaufort County, NC.
DefMo / Flickr Creative Commons

A coalition of environmental groups released a series of interactive maps documenting thousands of large-scale hog, cattle and poultry farms across North Carolina.  

The maps identify more than 4,000 hog waste lagoons and 14,000 poultry barns. Environmental advocates  say the large amount of waste generated by  confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, poses environmental and public health risks that the state government has failed to properly regulate.

A Duke Energy power plant and coal ash ponds outside Asheville.
Zen Sutherland / Flickr / www.flickr.com/photos/zen/1796555301/

Committees in the state House and Senate are weighing a measure that would prevent state agencies from issuing certain health warnings on drinking water.

Dave DeWitt

The dank, dark tunnel deep inside the Cowans Ford Dam—about 100 feet or so below the water line of Lake Norman north of Charlotte—is where I learn a little-known fact.

All dams leak.

Jeff Lineberger, Duke Energy’s director of Hydro Strategy and Licensing, and Mike Williams, the Cowans Ford facility director, smile and patiently explain to a novice the small waterfalls cascading down a staircase and into a trough alongside the tunnel.

Contaminated water at the Camp Lejeune military base has been linked to adverse health effects.
Sanjay Parekh, via Flickr

The Department of Veterans Affairs says it's prepared to compensate Marine Corps family members who were exposed to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune.

The V.A. announced in October that it will now begin helping family members who were sickened by water at the base. The Marine Corps has said as many as 1 million people may have consumed contaminated water between 1957 and 1987.

A SolarBee
Medora Corporation

The Army Corps of Engineers is wrapping up the environmental impact review of a $1.4 million plan to put solar powered water mixers (also known as SolarBees) on Jordan Lake to break up algae.

Last year, the General Assembly decided to delay implementation of rules that would restrict development around the lake to reduce contaminated runoff. Instead, they had the Department of Environment and Natural Resources spend $400,000 on 36 SolarBees to churn the water and prevent chlorophyll a, which is linked to algae blooms, from building up.

Photo: A drilling site in Rio Blanco and Garfield counties, CO.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service via Flickr

The commission that’s writing North Carolina’s rules on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, or fracking, is getting ready to present its recommendations to the General Assembly. The Mining and Energy Commission has been working since Sept. 2012, and today will debate the last eight rules it is preparing.

A few people like Sharon Garbutt have been following the Mining and Energy Commission. Garbutt has been volunteering to take children on field trips to the Haw River for 20 years. Most of the time, the kids love it.

Creative Commons

Algae may seem harmless, but toxic algae blooms can be a real problem in water supplies used by people.

They can kill wildlife in the water and be dangerous to humans. Host Frank Stasio talks with Hans Paerl, professor of Marine and Environmental Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Institute of Marine Sciences, Morehead City.

Albemarle Sound, NC
NASA / PD-USGOV

Federal cuts mean the state will stop monitoring water quality at several dozen swimming sites along coastal rivers and sounds in the coming year. The Environmental Protection Agency cut $22,000 from a grant for the testing.

The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries uses a combination of state and federal funds to test 240 swimming areas for certain bacteria.

Director Louis Daniel says the division has notified county heath and summer camp directors that it will stop testing water quality at 41 swimming areas in coastal rivers and sounds.