By Catawba Riverkeeper Brandon Jones

Did you know there are permits to discharge liquid waste into waterways?

As part of the 1972 Clean Water Act, the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System or NPDES was created. It is a framework for regulating industries and sewage treatment facilities which produce liquid waste. These permits specify the volume of waste, concentrations of pollutants, and monitoring frequency. Every 5 years permits expire and must be renewed.  During the renewal the public who “owns” the water is invited to comment and propose changes. A public hearing may also be requested.

In the Catawba River basin there are 157 wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) and 195 industrial discharges. Part of the Riverkeeper’s job is to review these permits and make sure our water is being protected. In NC, the state agency in charge of enforcing and writing these permits is grossly underfunded and understaffed. They often only hear from the industries seeking to discharge pollution.

On Friday the Riverkeeper along with dozens of neighbors and concerned citizens submitted comments to alter the proposed Pine Mountain Lake WWTP permit. This facility is a very small, only serving about 150 people, but it discharges into the one of the highest quality waters in the Catawba watershed, the Jacob Fork just outside of South Mountain State Park. If you’d like to participate, today is the last day to comment!

Find more info about the Pine Mountain permit
View all the Catawba NPDES permits on our Basin Explorer
See if the facilities near you are in compliance with their permits

*Above photo is of a paper mill discharge taken in 2007 by Nancy Pierce.