Environment

North Carolina Air Pollution
Doug Bradley / Flickr

  

Stronger emission controls in North Carolina are closely associated with declining death rates from respiratory illnesses like asthma and emphysema, according to a Duke University study released this week. 

North Carolina Air Pollution
Doug Bradley / Flickr

Duke University researchers have found a connection between state and federal air pollution restrictions and improved public health in North Carolina.

Duke Surgery Professor H. Kim Lyerly and his team evaluated disparate data from air quality monitoring stations and health statistics between 1993 and 2010. Lyerly said air quality improved, and so did respiratory health.

Accounting for seasonal changes and an overall drop in smoking, Lyerley said annual emphysema-related deaths dropped from 12-per-100,000 people, to five. Asthma and pneumonia-related deaths decreased, too.

Pisgah National Forest
Flickr

Thirty years ago today, President Ronald Reagan signed the North Carolina Wilderness Act which protected nearly 100,000 acres of wilderness in the state. Robert Cox, former president of the Sierra club, was instrumental in the law’s passage.

He toured the state showing the following slideshow on the importance of wilderness. It was digitized by the North Carolina Sierra Club as part of the project, Our Wild North Carolina.

Of course, the North Carolina Wilderness Act was controversial at the time, just as many environmental issues are today. Human industry has historically locked horns with the rest of nature.

Today, Cox is a professor of communication studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he studies the rhetoric of environmentalism and social change. 

Collapsed House Near Kingston Spill
Wikipedia

    

The coal ash spill in the Dan River earlier this year turned a public spotlight on the issue of coal ash disposal. The challenges around coal ash waste have existed in communities throughout the nation for decades.

black bear
Casey Brown / Flickr/Creative Commons

NC State University and the Wildlife Resources Commission are catching bears that live in and around Asheville and tracking them using satellite collars. The five year study began in May and is the first of its kind in the Southeast.

The Wildlife Commission's Brad Howard said the urban bear study will help answer a lot of questions, not only for Asheville, but other developed areas where bears have been spotted lately, including Raleigh.

A picture of a Viking gas-powered lawnmower.
kallerna / Wikipedia

Durham's "Get Your Grass Off Gas" campaign kicks off its fourth year next weekend. Each year, the city collects gas-powered yard equipment – like lawn mowers and weed whackers. They send those to the scrap yard and give residents discounts on new electric models.

City Sustainability Officer Tobin Freid says about 300 people have turned in gas-powered equipment over the past three years.

SCOTUS
Wikipedia

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that North Carolina homeowners could not proceed with their claims against CTS Corp. manufacturing plant because of the state's statute of repose. The ruling could have an effect on claims by individuals harmed by the water contamination at Camp Lejeune.

Whale euthanization
Sarah Mallette

In 2009, a 30-foot long Right whale became stranded on Cape Lookout, N.C. For those who've never been, Cape Lookout is a remote beach, reachable only by boat or helicopter. The weather conditions were rough. During high-tide, the whale was completely submerged. During low-tide, it was completely exposed.

Craig Harms and his team of scientists had to catch a ride from a Coast Guard helicopter.

"The pilot asked me, 'How much time do you need?'" said Harms. "I said, 'I can do quite a bit in half an hour.' She said, 'You've got 10 minutes."

A picture of the US Supreme Court building.
Daderot / Wikipedia

The US Supreme Court has upheld North Carolina's limits on how long people have to file pollution-related lawsuits.

The case involved pollution connected with a CTS Corp. manufacturing plant in Asheville. But the decision undercut families trying to sue over groundwater pollution at Camp Lejeune.

A Mystery Tree Grows In Chapel Hill

Jun 10, 2014
redwood
Parth Shah

For most people, taking care of the front yard means cutting the grass every few weeks.

But for Bill Massengale, lawn care involves looking after the lofty California coastal redwood growing in the front yard of his law office on Columbia Street.

“When we bought the place we were told that the only thing we had to do was to make sure nothing happens to the redwood,” Massengale says. “It’s one of my chief duties in life."

black bear
Casey Brown / Flickr/Creative Commons

Early Monday, officials were tracking a bear in the Five Points area of Raleigh. WRAL reported that information about the bear began to come in after midnight.

A mailman working in the area told WRAL News that a couple reported seeing the bear near a home under construction at the corner of Carroll and Whitaker Mill Road.

 

A picture of a baby olinguito.
Juan Rendon / Saving Species

Species are going extinct about 1,000 times faster than they should be because their habitat is being destroyed. That's according to new research led by Duke University.

Conservation Ecology Professor Stuart Pimm said the worse news is that nearly 90 percent of the species are unknown to scientists.

Loggerhead sea turtle
Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, Topsail Island

In the fall of 2012 a severely injured loggerhead sea turtle was rescued off the coast of North Carolina.

The loggerhead was brought to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Topsail Island, and then was transported to North Carolina State University School of Veterinary Medicine where a team worked on her injuries. The team named the turtle Nichols and began to figure out the extent of the damage.

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.

Trees in Chapel Hill,
Laura Candler

The EPA proposed sweeping changes to the country's carbon emission regulations. The coal is to cut carbon pollution by 30% by 2030 - relying more heavily on renewable energy sources to generate electricity.

Jonas Monast is the Director of the Climate and Energy Program at Duke University's Nicholas Institute. He says that North Carolina is well positioned for the changes that will be required.

A Duke Energy power plant and coal ash ponds outside Asheville.
Zen Sutherland

Federal Environmental Protection Agency officials introduced a proposed rule Monday that would reduce carbon emissions in the U.S. by one-third in the next 16 years. The potential reduction in carbon emissions could vary significantly between states. The initial draft would mandate North Carolina cut carbon emissions 40-percent by 2030. That figure is based on last year's amount of pollution.

North Carolina gets more than half its power from coal. The vast majority of that is produced by Duke Energy - the nation's largest electricity provider. 

Gorillas
wunc

This fall the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro will ship its five gorillas away.  The decision was made after a recommendation from the members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Gorilla Species Survival Plan. 

Here’s the problem—wild gorillas exist in groups that include one male, two or three females and their offspring.  Two baby male gorillas were born at the North Carolina Zoo this fall, Apollo and Bomassa, and all was well.

But then the father, Nkosi, died in November, which left no adult male role model for the two young gorillas.   

Flickr/Pam Rutter

For more than three decades, hundreds of thousands of people were likely exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, a Marine base in Jacksonville, North Carolina.

cankerworm
Steve Frank

North Carolina State University researchers are looking into stopping an invasive species of caterpillar that can damage and kill urban trees and shrubs.   

Cankerworms are born from the eggs of wingless moths.  The moths climb the trunks of trees to nest in the winter.

N.C. State professor and entomologist Steve Frank says these young larvae do most of the damage to trees and bushes that dot the city landscape.

"And then in early Spring just as the leaves are opening on the trees, the cankerworm eggs hatch and the caterpillars start eating the leaves," says Frank. 

Cape Hatteras Fishing Pier, August 4, 2013
Alistair Nicol / Flickr/Creative Commons

Cape Hatteras has been ranked as the sixth best beach in the nation by a leading beach expert, Dr. Stephen Leatherman ("Dr. Beach") of Florida International University.

Here's the list:

Early morning anglers heading downstream from Avent's Ferry on the Cape Fear River, near Corinth, North Carolina.
Donald Lee Pardue / Flickr/Creative Commons

There are 17 major rivers in North Carolina, but Philip Gerard puts the Cape Fear River at number one.

Triad News Update

May 20, 2014
The Dan River flows through Danville, VA 22 miles down stream from the site of a coal ash spill in Eden. Officials say treated water there remains safe to drink.
Jeff Tiberii

    

Two Republican lawmakers introduced a bill to the North Carolina Senate last week to cut back on the threat of coal ash pollution in North Carolina. 

A vacation home on the Outer Banks after super-storm Sandy.
Don McCullough, via Flickr, Creative Commons

The group that implements rules along the North Carolina coast has decided to shrink the scope of a study on sea level rise.

The Coastal Resources Commission had been considering a  study of the effects of sea level rise over the next 100 years. At their meeting Thursday they decided to limit that study to just 30 years, along with  updates every five years.

The commission thought the study would have more weight if it were more limited.

Hurricane Hazel uprooted over 100 trees on campus, tore the roof off the press box at the stadium, destroyed homecoming displays, and damaged stone work on the Chapel. Campus clean-up was greatly aided by a campaign created by the women of East Campus (th
Duke University Archives / Flickr/Creative Commons

Sixty years ago, Connie Ledgett and her first husband, Jerry Helms, were honeymooning on Oak Island near Wilmington. They had no idea that 140 mile-per-hour winds and an 18-foot storm surge were headed in their direction. That storm was Hurricane Hazel and it would be the strongest category 4 hurricane ever seen in the state. It devastated a 35-mile stretch of the coast.

Godi Godar (right) with a man from the Lac Tumba region, DRC
Godi Godar

Godi Godar lives and works in Durham, NC. He's a mechanic there. That's kind of amazing since Godar had never seen a car until he was in his 20s.

Godi grew up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). There was no running water or electricity in his town, Ikoko Bonginda. (Ikoko is in the Congolese rainforest, several hundred miles upriver from the DRC's capital, Kinshasa.)

Godi recalls seeing electricity across the lake, where the missionaries were.

"I remember saying, 'Wow, look at the lights there!' It was a trip."

A picture of the Fishing Pier at Ocean Isle Beach, NC.
Pubdog / Wikipedia

Forecasters say the worst is over, at least for the Triangle. The cold front, which blew damaging winds and heavy rain is headed toward the ocean.

On Tuesday, a tornado damaged homes and trees near Stedman. Some areas between Fayetteville and Wilson saw more than four inches of rain.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Brandon Dunstan said things will quiet down later today.

Loggerhead sea turtle
US Fish and Wildlife Service

Beach-goers on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore will have to settle for an evening stroll near the waves instead of a drive for the next five months.  Today begins nighttime restrictions on off-road vehicle access to those beaches.   May through September is the prime nesting time for sea turtles. 

Park Service spokeswoman Cyndi Holda said one reason for the temporary ban is that lights from the vehicles can distract the hatchlings on their journey out to sea.

Fisherman catches Red Drum of the NC Coast
Flickr user, creative commons

When the state announced earlier this month that the Red Drum fishery was closed, it was problematic for commercial fishermen. Commercially speaking, Red Drum is a bycatch fish, meaning it's only ever caught on accident, when trying to catch other fish. The fisherman are allowed to take in a total of about 250,000 a year -- a limit they hit much more quickly this year because Red Drum numbers are up.

A picture of a house damged by a tornado.
Blair Busby

More than a dozen people were taken to hospitals and an estimated 200 homes were severely damaged or destroyed following multiple tornado touchdowns in Eastern North Carolina on Friday. The National Weather Service confirmed an EF-3 tornado touched down in Beaufort county. Other EF-2 tornadoes hit Beaufort and Pitt counties. Some of the worst damage was experienced in Chocowinity - a town of about 800 people, considered part of 'Little' Washington area.

A map of Duke Energy's 14 coal ash sites and their operational status in 14 energy plants across the state.
Duke Energy

Duke Energy told North Carolina law makers Tuesday that it would cost up to $10 billion and could take 30 years to remove all the company’s coal ash from areas near rivers and lakes across the state.  

In a hearing called specifically to address the coal ash basins, Duke’s North Carolina President Paul Newton told law makers the company needed flexibility to find faster and less costlier alternatives to ensure its ash won’t contaminate bodies of water.

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