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Includes provisions for PCB testing and public notification


Charlotte Water's sewage sludge being spread in South Carolina on July 31, 2015

For Immediate Release: August 5, 2015

(Charlotte, NC) The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) renewed Charlotte Water’s (CW’s) permit to land apply sewage sludge in North Carolina. The permit incorporates some of the changes requested by the public in written comments and a public hearing earlier this year. However, DENR has received at least two requests – from CW and the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation – to modify the permit.

“While DENR could have issued a better permit, this permit recognizes two of the key problems with spreading sewage sludge,” said Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins. “We will continue to monitor this issue, but the state listened to its citizens when it added public notification and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) testing requirements to the permit. Nonetheless, CRF has requested clarified and improved language so that public notification is clearer and that PCB testing is performed by the nationally recognized best method.” PCBs are durable carcinogenic contaminants and the source of multiple fish advisories throughout the region.

The land application of sewage sludge can cause significant air and water quality issues. CW is permitted to spread sludge under a non-discharge permit, which is renewed every five years. Concerns with this permit grew in fall 2014, when CW proposed spreading on new fields near Gold Hill in Cabarrus County. Citizens responded at a November 9, 2014, meeting, as well as at draft permit hearing on March 24, 2015. A vast majority of participants opposed sludge spreading, especially given that a vast majority of sludge generated in Mecklenburg County is spread outside of Mecklenburg County. Local legislators even sponsored a bill in 2015 to allow local control of the quality of sludge spread in a county.

In 2013, CW (then Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities Department) experienced significant opposition to its permit renewal to spread sewage sludge in South Carolina. Following permit challenges, CW agreed to provide public notification prior to its spreading of sewage sludge. However, CW does not feel it should provide notification in North Carolina.

Testing in 2013 and 2014 – including after a major illegal dumping incident in 2014 – revealed CW has significant problem with the dumping of PCBs in its sewer system. CW would prefer to test by an older method, which has been abandoned as an option in states with a history of PCB problems and actively pursuing cleanup and prevention. “If you do not use the right method, you miss a lot of PCB varieties. Given the history of illegal PCB dumping, CW should be utilizing the best method available to ensure that it can vouch for the safety of what it spreads on farm fields,” said Perkins.

DENR is currently considering the requests for modification. “We are grateful that DENR implemented requirements to help ensure that citizens can adequately prepare for spreading events and that farmers will know whether their fields are being contaminated by PCBs,” Perkins added. “Still, DENR needs to regulate pharmaceuticals and phosphorous in sludge. This starts with at least testing for pharmaceuticals (currently not required of what are common contaminants in wastewater systems) and limiting oversaturation of phosphorous in the soil and ultimately water.”

Fields after sewage sludge is land applied in South Carolina on July 31, 2015
Fields after sewage sludge is land applied in South Carolina on July 31, 2015
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Jan 25, 2017 NC Riverkeeper Report
From the perspectives of 12 NC Riverkeepers, this report discusses how multiple environmental issues pose challenges in the pursuit of clean, plentiful water. Whether you are in North Carolina or downstream in South Carolina, read this report about the state of environmental enforcement.
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The Community Foundation will fund Catawba Riverkeeper's work in Gaston County.
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Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation in partnership with 4-H Clemson Cooperative Extension successfully completed our pilot Education Outreach Program with 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students from Great Falls Elementary.
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86 volunteers collected 5,490 pounds of trash from Lake Wateree
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Click here to fill out a pollution report or to report water pollution to Catawba Riverkeeper by phone, call 1-888-679-9494 or 704-679-9494.  In addition, to informing your Riverkeeper, you should also report spills or contamination to federal, state and local environmental officials.

To report South Carolina water pollution call 1-888-481-0125.

To report North Carolina spills or fish kills, call your local regional Department of Environment & Natural Resources office during normal business hours (704-663-1699 for most Catawba basin areas or (828) 296-4500 for Burke, Caldwell, McDowell and other mountain counties) or 800-858-0368 after hours.  (For more information on NC spill reporting, click here)


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Fish Advisories

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Fish consumption advisories have been issued throughout the Catawba-Wateree River basin.  Many of these advisories are the result of testing initiated by Catawba Riverkeeper and confirmed by state and local officials.  For a chart identifying fish types with the applicable advisories for the Charlotte area, click here.   For more information about the fish advisories, click here.

715 N. Church St., Suite 120 . Charlotte, NC 28202 . Phone: 704.679.9494 . Fax: 704.679.9559