Environmental Protection Agency

US Fish and Wildlife Service responds to coal ash spill on Dan River
USFWS

The Environmental Protection Agency came out today with its first-ever regulations for coal ash.

The new rules treat coal ash like regular household garbage, instead of hazardous waste, as many environmental groups wanted. The EPA said the record did not support a hazardous-waste classification.

Coal ash is the byproduct when coal is burned for electricity. It contains arsenic, selenium, and other materials that can be harmful to humans.

A picture of cleaning chemicals.
Collin Anderson / Flickr

The Environmental Protection Agency is hosting a chemical safety data summit in Research Triangle Park today and tomorrow. 

Unless a chemical is being used as a food additive, a drug, a pesticide or one of a few other specialized uses, EPA officials say there's not a significant amount of testing required. 

Russell Thomas is a director at the EPA.  He said there are hundreds of new chemicals introduced into the environment each year.

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.  

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. 

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.

Albemarle Sound, NC
NASA / PD-USGOV

Federal cuts mean the state will stop monitoring water quality at several dozen swimming sites along coastal rivers and sounds in the coming year. The Environmental Protection Agency cut $22,000 from a grant for the testing.

The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries uses a combination of state and federal funds to test 240 swimming areas for certain bacteria.

Director Louis Daniel says the division has notified county heath and summer camp directors that it will stop testing water quality at 41 swimming areas in coastal rivers and sounds.

North Carolina Air Pollution
Doug Bradley / Flickr

That's not an easy question to answer.

Earlier this week, eight Northern states filed a petition with the EPA alleging that states from the South and Midwest are producing enough smog that it's affecting the air quality downwind. But how much can be blamed on North Carolina?

On the face of it, it's likely that some of North Carolina's air pollution does seep across state lines.