Coal ash, GenX remain regional health threats

By: By Bill Smith - Contributing columnist

Recently maps were released that show what the impact would be if the coal ash dams failed. These are associated with Duke Energy and our local one was the Weatherspoon plant located on N.C. 72 East of Lumberton. This is a very sparsely populated so only five structures would be affected if a failure occurred.

Environmentalists have stressed how ecologically fragile that area is so this may have even more impact. Amazingly, there is no state or federal requirement for the owners to be notified that they may be in harm’s way, so they have no idea. While many of these coal ash sites are having the ash moved to areas in the middle of the state, we are fortunate that a decision was made to recycle the ash locally — the product of which will be used in the construction of bridges and buildings. However, until this occurs, the danger exists.

On a slightly different note I have wondered how much of the 15 percent price increase requested by Duke for electricity is affiliated with having to clean up its mess.

Moving from one man-made environmental disaster to another, GenX remains in the news. The testing of the private drinking wells have shown several to have elevated levels of this contaminant. Originally, they were on the Cumberland County side of Chemours, but subsequent reports indicate some Bladen County sites are affected. Robeson County remains unscathed, but as this issue widens, it remains to be seen if we stay out of the fray.

Farther downstream, solutions to the drinking water problems were barely addressed. The majority party requested $435,000, which is earmarked for the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and a local water authority. The governor vetoed this because of its inadequacy in addressing the underlying cause — the systematic dismantling by the Legislature of the environmental and health agencies that can no longer safeguard the public from theses type matters. He felt that $2.6 million would be needed.

The legislature recently voted to override the veto by the majority party. If you didn’t hear much debate, that is because that is the norm in Raleigh these days — someone comes down from the mountain and issues a commandment on how to vote. The bill that included this has been dubbed “The Junk Drawer of Environmental Laws” as it had components that were totally unrelated to each other.

Come to think about it, that aptly describes most of my writings so I should see the logic in it, but I don’t.

By Bill Smith

Contributing columnist

Bill Smith is the director of the Robeson County Health Department.

Bill Smith is the director of the Robeson County Health Department.