Tar Heel Grief Just Down the Road

By Peter Galuszka

It’s sad to see mccrorytwo states to which I have personal ties – North Carolina and West Virginia — in such bad ways.

The latest raw news comes from the Tar Heel state where we are seeing the handiwork of hard-right- Gov. Pat McCrory who has been on a tear for a year now bashing civil rights here, pulling back from regulation there.

The big news is Duke Energy’s spill of coal ash and contaminated water near Eden into the Dan River, which supplies Danville and potentially Virginia Beach with drinking water. Reports are creeping out that the McCrory regime has been pressuring the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to pull back from regulation.

According to Rachel Maddow, DENR officials had stepped in with environmentalists as plaintiffs on two occasions in lawsuits to get Duke Energy to clean up coal ash. But when a third suit was filed, McCrory, a former Charlotte Mayor and career Duke Energy employee, influenced a third lawsuit settlement against Duke to be delayed.

Also, not long before the Eden spill, the City of Burlington released sewage into the Haw River which flows into Lake Jordan serving drinking water to Cary, Apex and Pittsboro. DENR allegedly did not release news of the spill to the public.

Late last year, Amy Adams, a senior DENR official, resigned to protest the massive cuts McCrory and Republican legislators were forcing at her department, notably in its water quality section.

McCrory’s been on a Ken Cuccinelli-style rip in other ways such as cutting back on unemployment benefits in a top manufacturing state badly hit by the recession and globalization. He’s shut down abortion clinics by suddenly raising the sanitation rules to hospital levels, much like former Gov. Robert F. McDonnell did in Virginia.

A reaction to McCrory is building, however. Recently, I chatted with Jason Thigpen who served in the Army and was wounded in Iraq in 2009. When Thigpen returned to his home in southeastern North Carolina, he was upset that the state was sticking it to vets by making them pay out-of-state college tuition in cases where some had been state residents before deploying. So, he started an activist group to protect them.

Next, Thigpen decided to run for Congress. His views fit more neatly with the Republican Party but he simply could not take what McCrory was doing in Raleigh so he became a Democrat and is a contender in a primary this spring.

Why the switch? “I just couldn’t see what the GOP was doing with my state in Raleigh,” He told me. “Also, I didn’t like what they were doing with women. I had served with women in war and they come back to North Carolina and they are treated like second class citizens,” he said.

West Virginia, meanwhile, is still struggling with its drinking water issues from a spill near Charleston. Although drinking water for 300,000 is said to be potable, children are reporting rashes.

Somehow, this conjures up another story involving a Republican governor – Arch Moore.

Back in 1972, Moore was governor when Pittston, a Virginia-based energy firm, had badly sited and built some damns to hold coal waste. After torrential rains, the dams burst and a sea of filthy water raced down the hollows, inundating small villages and killing 125 people. The state wanted a $100 million settlement from Pittston for the Buffalo Creek disaster, but Moore interceded and they settled for a measly $1 million.

Moore was later convicted of five felonies after he was caught extorting $573,000 from a coal company that wanted to reduce its payments to a state fund that compensated miners who got black lung disease.

Does anyone see a pattern yet?

Meanwhile, we in Virginia should breathe a sigh of relief considering just close it was dodging the bullet last election.

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9 responses to “Tar Heel Grief Just Down the Road

  1. According to Fairfax County officials, the City of Alexandria dumps raw sewerage into the Potomac River an average of 50 times per year. But do we hear about that? Of course not, Democrats run Alexandria.

    • TMT:

      If you can provide sources for this I will take the matter up with the Potomac Riverkeeper and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. The CBF, in particular, has become much more willing to sue municipalities for violating various clean water statutes. And the CBF doesn’t give a rat’s ass whether the polluter is a municipality run by Democrats or Republicans.

  2. re: ” And the CBF doesn’t give a rat’s ass whether the polluter is a municipality run by Democrats or Republicans.”

    that’s CLEARLY another LIBERAL LIE!

    DJ – everyone knows that these environmental groups are front organizations for LIBERALs!

    re: sewage spills upstream of municipal water intakes.

    I don’t know how to break the news here.. but this is not uncommon on many of Va Rivers. Fairfax and other parts of NoVa get their water out of the Potomac which has hundreds/Thousands of miles of upstream rivers, creeks and tributaries that experience (usually) sewage releases in heavy rain events that overwhelm their treatment facilities – through combined sewer overflows or what is called I&I ..

    and TMT my man.. I thought Fairfax also has some issues with polluted streams going into the Potomac, no?

    the reality is that sewage overflows are not rare… in Va. The plants themselves do a pretty good job because DEQ keeps on them – but many are older design and their sewers are susceptible to heavy rains which get into the sewers and the treatment plant runs out of storage capacity and when that happens – untreated sewage just goes directly into the river.

    • It’s not a matter of “breaking the news”. Alexandria is a small, densely populated, wealthy place. If the people who run Alexandria aren’t willing to address the fact that they dump raw sewage into the Potomac once a week then they have little cause to point fingers at conservatives lack of regard for the environment.

      BTW – There are not 50 heavy rain events in Alexandria per year unless it turned into a jungle since I grew up there.

      • I thought Blue Plains did most all of NoVa sewage, no?

        is there some valid reference for the “50” releases and the cause?

        The politics sound, as usual, a bit odd .. as Cucinelli sued over the Fairfax issue but ignored the Alexandria issue?

        • Blue Plains covers 2M people. My guess is that Alexandria has combined runoff / sewage pipes. In storms these pipes often overflow with both sewage and runoff. More modern approaches separate the sewage from the runoff. Runoff still overflows but doesn’t take sewage with it.

          It sounds like DC is addressing this issue (inside The District):

          http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/dc-water-unveils-giant-tunneling-machine-to-help-cut-sewage-spills-during-rainstorms/2013/04/09/a9c163aa-a14c-11e2-9c03-6952ff305f35_story.html

          • yup.. Alexandria has combined sewer overflow issues that are affected by I&I as well as rain events. infiltration/inflow convey old springs and other underground drainages that were actually diverted into sewer systems instead of storm water at that time.

            many of these start outside of Alexandria.

        • Cuccinelli sued to block the EPA from forcing Fairfax County and Virginia to clean up the engineering abortion that is the Beltway run-off approach.

          I never heard that the EPA was “after” Alexandria so maybe Ken didn’t see a federal dragon to slay.

          If TMT provides details I’ll look into the Alexandria matter. Maybe it doesn’t constitute enough damage to warrant EPA attention. I don’t know.

          • Alexandria has a well known (to EPA and DEQ).. “old city” sewer problem that is going to be very expensive to fix and will involve building huge underground tanks and vaults to capture and sequester runoff that gets into the sewer system, not only from rain events but underground flows and springs.

            it’s not a matter of irresponsible actions.. it’s a matter of an old sewer system that has to be rehabilitated.

            Perhaps Fairfax will do the right thing also, eh?

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