Pollution

Pollution in Shanghai, China
Leniners / Flickr - Creative Commons

Burning fossil fuels through cars and coal plants is exacerbating the presence of ground-level ozone gas in the air we breathe. The gas has been linked to negative effects on pulmonary health, but a new study from Duke University shows ozone may have serious consequences for heart health as well. 

Ambient air pollution levels projected onto a Hargett Street building in downtown Raleigh.
Courtesy of particlefallsral.org

A traveling art installation in downtown Raleigh is showing passersby how much pollution is in the air around them.

Staring Down Fate

Aug 30, 2016
Photo of Chris Lucash
Jeffrey Mittelstadt, WildSides

Chris Lucash spent close to three decades working with the endangered red wolf population in North Carolina. He was present when the first wolves were released back into the wild in the late 1980s and helped support the wild population as it grew to its peak in the 2000s.

In June of 2015, Lucash was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, and he passed away just one year later.

New Guide Helps Local Anglers Avoid Polluted Waterways

Jul 2, 2016
eatfishwisely.org

Researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill are helping local fishermen identify which fish are most likely to be contaminated by chemical pollutants, and where it’s safer to eat what they catch.

The new website, Eat Fish, Choose Wisely, maps out waterways and fish species with lower levels of contamination, along with some that should be avoided entirely.

Griffins Crossroads, NC taken March 7 2009
Todd Martin / Flickr/Creative Commons

A national environmental group says the Haw River is among the most endangered in the nation. Earlier this year a pipe broke in Burlington and 3.5 million gallons of sewage spilled into the Haw. The River flows into Jordan Lake, which provides drinking water for about one million state residents.

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

Duke Energy has reached a tentative settlement with state regulators regarding lawsuits over leaks from its coal ash ponds in Asheville and on the Catawba River.  The company has agreed to pay a $100,000 fine.  The consent order would require the company to determine the cause and the extent of those leaks into groundwater and into Mountain Island Lake, the source of Charlotte’s water supply.  Susan Massengale with the state division of water quality says the agreement lays out a timeline for Duke to do that.

Leaves on trees in a forest.
Laura Candler

A new study from researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has revealed exactly how trees play a role in smog production. The question has been a source of scientific uncertainty for years, and the findings are a milestone in air pollution research, with potentially significant implications for public health.

Falls Lake as seen from above Durham County
Travis S / Flickr

Durham County Commissioners have approved a plan to buy 260 acres of land near Falls Lake.  The board voted 3-2 this week to purchase the property in east Durham for $650,000.

Commissioner Ellen Reckhow says the deal will allow Durham County to comply with a state mandate that says all local governments in the Falls Lake watershed must help clean up the polluted lake.

"It has Falls Lake frontage and so many creeks and streams such that 93 percent of the acreage is within 300 feet of water," Reckhow said during this week's meeting.

NC Division of Water Quality
NC Division of Water Quality

North Carolina environmental officials are formulating a strategy to reduce mercury levels in the state's waterways. The divisions of air and water quality are holding public meetings this week and next to share their findings and solicit ideas. Susan Massengale with the Division of Water Quality says they've just completed a study finding that 98% of the mercury in the state's water is coming from the air.

A series of public hearings starts today to determine how the state should use funds from an $11.2 million settlement with the Tennessee Valley Authority. The agreement came earlier this year after the state claimed coal-fired TVA plants in Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee sent polluted air into North Carolina. State Energy Office spokesman Seth Effron says the settlement calls for the money to go toward clean energy projects.

State of the Sounds

Nov 17, 2011

The health of the bodies of water that surround coastal North Carolina is being discussed today in New Bern. The state's eight sounds are managed by a program through the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Jim Hawhee works for DENR. He says what happens in Raleigh and Durham effects the water in the sounds.

Ozone Levels Lower

Oct 31, 2011

State health officials say fewer emissions from cars and industrial buildings cut down on air pollution this year. The annual ozone season officially ends today. There were 26 days in which ozone exceeded healthy levels. That's well below the 10-year average of 41 days. Division of Air Quality spokesman Tom Mather says recent numbers are lower despite back-to-back hot and dry summers.

A sulfur-melting plant proposed near Morehead City has provoked a public outcry. Tom Pasztor, Senior Director of Corporate and Government Relations for the Potash Corporation says they need the plant in order to produce fertilizers, agricultural feed and industrial products. The Potash Corporation is the parent company of PCS Phosphates. PCS already uses sulfur to produce fertilizers and agricultural feeds at a facility in Aurora, North Carolina. The plant would allow them to melt dry sulfur that arrives at the port.

EPA officials are working to clean up tractor trailers containing barrels filled with chemicals on a residential property in Rocky Mount. The owner of the property said the trailers had been there since he inherited the land from his father. When crews arrived on-site they reported strong chemical odors and a trailer was leaking black material. Kenneth Rhame of the EPA says they have determined the air around the site is not contaminated, but soil contamination is still a worry.

New Research at North Carolina State University points to the disadvantages of improperly disposing of biodegradable plastics. The products are designed to break down in composting bins. James Levis is an N.C. State PhD candidate and one of the study's organizers. He says the problem is that most biodegradable plastics are being thrown in the trash.

Hog Farm Pollution Tied To Residents' Symptoms

Apr 25, 2011
Spraying hog waste and pig carcass disposal
Larry Baldwin, Neuse River Foundation

  People living near hog farms in the eastern part of the state experience breathing problems when emissions from hog waste are highest - that's from new research done by UNC environmental scientists. 

Epidemiologist Steve Wing from the Gillings School of Global Public Health placed air pollution monitors in communities surrounded by large hog farms. He says one of the most important gasses he measured is hydrogen sulfide. The rotten egg smelling gas is known to be toxic to the nervous and the respiratory systems.  Wing also asked residents to keep diaries of their symptoms. 

A state trust fund that provides money for water pollution cleanup could shrink significantly under the budget proposed by the state House. That's according to Richard Rogers, the Chief Executive of the Clean Water Management Trust Fund. He says the House budget appropriates 10 million dollars to the trust fund, 80 percent less than the 50 million proposed by Governor Bev Perdue in her budget.

The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources is evaluating a number of sites around the state deemed hazardous because of spilled dry-cleaning solvent. There's a spill in Carrboro that originated from a dry-cleaner in the 70s that's no longer there. John Powers is the director of DENR's Dry Cleaning Solvent Clean Up Act team. He says the first thing they do when a site is volunteered for clean-up is to evaluate water to find out the extent of the contamination.

Today marks the first day new pollution rules go into effect for Falls Lake. The State Division of Water Quality found Falls Lake to be impaired in 2008.

Falls Lake is the source of drinking water for half a million Wake County residents, but most of the watershed lies in Durham and Granville Counties. That has put local officials at odds for the last 18 months as they hammered out the new rules.