Environment

Hurricane Arthur
National Weather Service / NOAA

Historically, today marks the peak in the Atlantic hurricane season. 

There have been four named storms so far and three of those were hurricanes.  Hurricane Arthur caused damage to eastern North Carolina when it came ashore along the Outer Banks in July.  

Richard Bandy is a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Newport.  He said forecasts for a below normal season are proving accurate. 

On February 2, between 50,000 and 82,000 tons of coal ash and 27 million gallons of ash pond water waste were released at Duke Energy’s Dan River Steam Station (pictured above) north of Eden, N.C.
Steven Alexander / USFWS

Governor Pat McCrory says he'll allow a coal ash management plan to become law without his signature.

The governor says Duke Energy needs to take action as soon as possible. It needs to take care of the coal ash that's in ponds across the state. But that doesn't mean the governor is happy with the plan.

"I am letting the bill become law without signing it because there are major deficiencies that need to be corrected," he said in a recorded statement.

hydrilla
Dave DeWitt

A state task force will begin work soon to try to control an invasive plant that threatens the Eno River. Hydrilla was first spotted in the southern U.S. in the 1960s.

Hydrilla came to this country from Asia and is especially concentrated on the eastern side of the Eno River State Park, where the water is wide and slow-moving.

The plants are visible just below the surface of the river, like a giant bright green blanket choking off sunlight to the river’s bottom. The plant is spreading at a rate of about a mile a year, and in twelve years could reach Falls Lake.

Haw River
Haw River Assembly

The City of Burlington will embark on a series of improvements to its wastewater collection system. It’s part of an agreement between the city and various environmental groups. 

Back in January, more than 3.5 million gallons of raw sewage spilled out of a cracked pipe near a wastewater treatment plant and into the Haw River. The Haw River winds through Alamance County and feeds into Jordan Lake, the main source of drinking water for more than a quarter of a million people.

A hog farm in Lyons, Georgia.
Jeff Vanuga, USDA NRCS

Several environmental groups have filed a federal complaint against the state over hog waste. In a filing with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the organizations say North Carolina has failed to enforce rules regulating disposal of hog waste.  

Students at Estes Elementary finishing lunch.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

Schools in Chapel Hill and Carrboro have launched a district-wide composting program in their cafeterias. 

The program started on the first day of classes in 15 elementary and middle schools.  Many individual schools in North Carolina have started composting, but few districts have created their own programs. 

Dan Schnitzer, sustainability coordinator for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, says the schools will be able to use some of the compost their students create.

A reduction of emissions from coal-fired plants like this one have helped North Carolina meet federal air quality standards.
eutrophication&hypoxia / Flickr, Creative Commons

North Carolina is meeting a new national standard for reducing particle pollution. 

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has notified Governor Pat McCrory that it will officially designate that the state is in compliance this coming December. 

State air quality experts say particle pollution can reach dangerous levels at any time during the year. 

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

The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources plans to fine Duke Energy for groundwater contamination from two coal ash ponds near Wilmington.

State officials decided to fine Duke as they wait for the outcome of legal action against the utility company.

In lawsuits filed last summer, officials say Duke has illegally leaked toxic chemicals like thallium from coal ash ponds.

These are 33 basins across North Carolina full of ash left over from burning coal. Two of these basins are at the L.V. Sutton Electric Plant in New Hanover County.

NCDOT

A new, longer ferry route between Hatteras and Ocracoke Island on the Outer Banks is now permanent. 

Officials from the U.S. Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers and the North Carolina Department of Transportation made the announcement Monday. 

Tim Hass of the state Ferry Division says the original shorter route continues to be a problem.

Every year on Cape Hatteras National Seashore, female sea turtles return to the beaches where they were born to lay the next generation. The turtle digs a hole in the sand with her back flippers, lays her eggs, covers the nest and heads back into the ocean.

This summer, researchers report finding a healthy number of sea turtle nests — a good thing, since they are a “threatened” species.

USFWS/Southeast

The Cape Hatteras National Seashore researchers found at least 121 turtle nests since May. That's about half the record number of nests found last summer.

But Research Coordinator Britta Muiznieks says this year's count is average and she's not worried.

"Sea turtles don't nest every year. They nest every two to three years. There are no alarm bells going off because our numbers are declining compared to last year," she says.

A Marcellus Shale drill rig in Pennsylvania used in the fracking process.
Ken Skipper, USGS

State officials are holding a hearing in Sanford today on proposed rules for hydraulic fracturing. Hundreds are expected to attend.

Fracking is a form of shale gas extraction, and it's controversial, among other things, because of it's a serious contamination threat to drinking water.

So as the North Carolina Mining and Energy Commission shares its proposed rules for the industry, many people are interested. Earlier this week, hundreds packed an auditorium at N-C State in Raleigh.

Campers at the NC Zoo in Asheboro learn to use radio telemetry
NC Zoo

A dozen lucky kids tented overnight on the grounds of the NC Zoo recently. They were taking part in a one-of-a-kind summer camp. Carol Jackson tagged along with a video camera.

Usually when kids camp overnight at a zoo they look closely at the animals and learn from the keepers, or maybe the veterinarians.

A busy Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill.
Town of Chapel Hill

Forestry experts and urban designers are gathering in Raleigh this week to discuss the effects of climate change on the urban landscape. The North Carolina Urban Forestry Conference is centered on how to design city spaces to cope with and help prevent rising temperatures.

It's not just about finding more places for shade trees (though that's something forestry types would certainly applaud). Scientists are also considering how to combat an increase in pests that prey on trees not suited for greater temperatures.

wind turbines
Board of Ocean Energy Management

On Monday, the Obama administration announced about 300,000 acres of land of the North Carolina coast that will be explored for possible offshore wind development. The announcement includes three locations for potential development - two near Wilmington and one about 30 nautical miles off the coast of Kill Devil Hills.

On July 30,2014 the North Carolina Zoo’s female lion Mekita and male lion Reilly welcomed four cubs.
NC Zoo

July 30, a lion gave birth to four cubs at The North Carolina Zoo. It's the first birth since October 2006. The four cubs are not on exhibit now, but the zoo has made a behind-the-scenes video of them available. They are with mother Mekita:

This little girl is posing at her grandmother's home in Chapel Hill. She made the sign behind her to welcome the bees.
Carol Jackson

Marty Hanks loves everything about bees. He manages colonies in several counties around the state. If bees are bugging you, he will  remove them for free. But what makes Marty's business unique is not just that he removes the bees -- many beekeepers do that.

It's  that he finds foster families for them.

WUNC's Carol Jackson reports:

Maureen Sill / Flickr/Creative Commons

Researchers at NC State University and the U.S. Geological Survey predict that urban areas in the south will double in size by 2060. If the rate and style of urban sprawl continues, farm and forest land will give way to a "megalopolis" that stretches from Raleigh to Atlanta.

USGS Research Ecologist Adam Terando says the pattern of decentralized development (meaning houses with yards and on cul-de-sacs as well as roadside business centers) will mean cutting further into wildlife habitats.

Tourism is doing well along the Dan River in Rockingham County, a few miles upstream from the site of a massive coal ash spill in February.
Jeff Tiberii

Following a massive coal ash spill into the Dan River in February, The Department of Health and Human Services issued an advisory downstream from the site, recommending people stay out of the water. Now, after surface water and soil testing, state health officials say recreational use of the Dan River is safe.

 

It has now been almost six months since a Duke Energy storm water pipe ruptured near the Virginia border, sending 39,000 tons of potentially toxic material into the Dan River. Some of the effects have been marginal and others remain unknown.

A picture of a woman photographing a beach house on stilts.
Eric Mennel / WUNC

The panel responsible for studying sea-level rise along North Carolina's coast met Monday in New Bern. It was the first meeting under a new mandate to look at the forecast for sea-level rise for a shorter time period.

Four years ago the Coastal Resources Commission's science panel issued a dire report saying oceans could rise 39 inches by the year 2100. The state then issued a moratorium on using that prediction for policy purposes. The new guidelines for the science panel call for a 30-year prediction.

The state commission overseeing plans to treat pollution in Jordan Lake did not make any recommendations during its last meeting.
JT Taylor / Flickr/Creative Commons

State environmental officials are overseeing the installation of special machines in Jordan Lake starting today. 

SolarBees are water circulators intended to prevent algae from storm water runoff from forming in the lake.  Installers are placing a total of 36 machines: 12 in the Haw River arm of the lake and 24 more in the Morgan Creek tributary.  

Susan Massengale is a spokeswoman with the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources.  She says this step begins 18 months of water testing.

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

Victims of severe storms and tornadoes that swept through 12 coastal counties in late April are eligible for federal disaster relief loans, if they turn in their applications today.

Business and homeowners, and renters, can apply for loans of varying levels from the Small Business Association. Interest rates are from 2 to 3 percent and can be paid off over 30 years.

Jay MacKenna of the SBA says these loans cover physical and property damage.

Medora Corp.

State environment officials expect to install 36-solar powered water mixers into Jordan Lake by the end of the month, as part of a two-year trial to find out whether the mixers can prevent algae from growing in the lake, they said.  

A screenshot captured Saturday at Mirlo Beach near Rodanthe shows the surf advancing on Highway 12.
NCDOT / facebook.com

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded a $20.3 million contract for beach re-nourishment just north of Rodanthe. The contract is going to the same Illinois dredging company that re-nourished the beach in Nags Head just before Hurricane Irene hit the area in 2011, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock, of Illinois.

PED Virus
Rick Dove, Waterkeeper Alliance

The New York Times reports Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea or PED virus killed an estimated 100,000 young pigs each week across the country since the virus was detected last May.

North Carolina continues to suffer.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture says, no doubt, PED has been a nasty virus and has taken an emotional and financial toll on hog farmers.

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