Flood waters have wreaked havoc in North Carolina following Hurricane Florence, thanks to rising rivers swollen with stormwater. In many areas, officials have warned residents to boil their water before consumption, as waste continues to seep from damaged farms into local water sources. Between the estimated 3.4 million dead chickens and turkeys and the controversial waste lagoons from local hog farms, the environmental impact of Florence is far from over.
As of September 18, 2018, the flooding had overtopped 22 hog lagoons, which house the waste byproducts from hog farms. Trails of excrement are seeping into the flood waters and putting all animals and humans at risk.
Frank Holleman, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, told the Raleigh News and Observer that he’s beyond frustrated with North Carolina’s controversial policies on agricultural waste.
“North Carolina allows all this dangerous waste to be stored next to its flooding coastal — and, for that matter, inland — rivers,” Holleman said. “How long do we have to go through this until we decide it’s too much risk?”
In the wake of Hurricane Florence, Holleman believes the time has come for North Carolina politicians to reassess the potential risk of such practices.
In addition to concerns caused by hog farms and the rampant deaths of farm animals from the hurricane, workers are diligently trying to prevent coal ash from seeping into the flood waters, too. Duke Energy estimates that 2,000 cubic yards of coal ash have been washed into the flood waters following the storm. Coal ash contains high levels of heavy metals like arsenic, lead, and chromium.
Despite the recommendation to boil your water, these heavy metals will only be removed if you specifically filter them out. Boiling will have no effect on heavy metals. Scientists recommend switching to bottled water if there is any concern with high levels of heavy metals in your water.
Duke Energy was previously found guilty of criminal negligence when 39,000 tons of coal ash from a poorly maintained container leaked into the Dan River in February 2014. Since then the company has been working to close all of their ash pits and be more environmentally friendly. To date, only two of their ash pits have been closed.
Though concerned with the results of the flood waters on the environment, Holleman is most concerned that the state of North Carolina will neglect to take serious action to fix these environmental issues and prevent future disaster during flooding.
Of course, you don’t have to sit around and wait for politicians to change the law. There are steps any citizen can take to improve their environmental impact.
If you’re looking to improve your carbon footprint, here are some simple ways to get started:
- Take the bus… Motorcoaches are 3 times more efficient when it comes to CO2 reduction compared to other means of travel.
- Reduce, reuse, recycle… The less you put in landfills the better.
- Turn off your lights and use less water… These resources are not infinite; don’t forget to flip off the switch and tap whenever you can!
If you are concerned that your water supply will be impacted by the environmental disaster following Hurricane Florence, reach out to your water supply company as soon as possible.