Our legislature has its head in the sand when it comes to sea level rise and climate change. Toxic coal ash waste, hog lagoons, and poultry factory farms are all located in floodplains. When researchers brought dire news to the General Assembly of the effects of sea level rise, instead of heeding the warning and planning for the future, they passed a law prohibiting the study. They turned a blind eye in order to protect the interests of corporations seeking to profit in these areas. It’s time North Carolina had leaders who put the health and safety of the people before the profits of polluting corporations.
More than three weeks after Hurricane Florence made landfall near Wilmington on September 14, flood waters in some areas continue to linger. Our hearts are with the those who lost loved ones, and those who have suffered property losses. We are inspired by the generosity of our community and those who have come to our aid from out of state. We will rebuild, but we must do it with the knowledge gained from the aftermath of this so-called 1,000-year flood and the 500-year flood that we experienced just two years ago.
There is much to assess, but our mission at Cape Fear River Watch is to protect and improve the water quality of the Lower Cape Fear River. This storm illustrates the challenges of that mission. While industrial pollution has been seeping into our waterways for years, Hurricane Florence shined a dramatic, national spotlight on how industry, left unchecked, devastates our water quality, and with it, our environment, our economy, our public health and our way of life.
This storm justified a primary goal of our organization: whether chemical pollution from industries like Chemours, Duke Energy’s coal ash, or animal waste from companies like Smithfield, we must stop pollution at the source, so it does not have an opportunity to spill, leak, seep or run off into the Cape Fear River whether through a slow and steady trickle or a violent flood caused by increasingly frequent and intense storms.
Since the days leading up to the storm and still ongoing, Cape Fear Riverkeeper Kemp Burdette has been on the ground and in the sky assessing the potential and actual impacts on the Cape Fear River basin. He has told our story to reporters with national reach. The first step toward positive change in public policy is education, and national news coverage is certainly valued. But while the storm provided an opportunity to educate many people outside our community about our state’s challenges, it’s not up to them to do anything about it. This is on us.
National journalists and the rest of the country will move on to the next distraction while we remain here, wondering what diseases are festering in the soggy remains of our homes. It’s time we do something about it.