Flooding impacts environment, health, and economy

(Photo: Helen Holt/WWAY)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Record river flooding has threatened thousands of homes and wildlife. Environmental impacts are now in the spotlight causing many to wonder whether or not it’s okay to drink your water.

Cape Fear Riverkeeper Kemp Burdette has been flying over flooded areas this week. He’s noticed a number of hog and polutry lagoons inundated with flood waters causing feces and urine to contaminated rivers like the Northeast Cape Fear River and the Black River.

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“Flood waters have risen up over the berms of those waste lagoons in some cases so then you get river water mixing with all of this raw untreated waste which is problematic,” Burdette said.

NCDA&CS Public Affairs Division Director Brian Long says initial reports show that 1.9 million birds, mostly broiler chickens, have died as a result of the storm.

“Water is still fairly warm and so the bacteria will still be able to live in the water for some time and I would have concerns about being in contact with river water for probably weeks,” Burdette said.

Burdette says ponds at Sutton Lake do not appear to be flooded so coal ash spilling in the Cape Fear is not a big problem.

“There are coal ash concerns, but most of those are in other river basins like the c and Lumber and Waccamaw River basins, so ponds at Sutton Lake seem to be hoping up pretty well,” Burdette said.

Burdette says it’s going to take a while for the water move down the river basins and that you should concerned about water quality over the next few weeks.

Mike Giles with the NC Coastal Federation says you also need to keep an eye out for wildlife.

“Coyotes, bob cats, bear, you name it, they will flushed out of their normal homes and they are going to be looking somewhere else to find food and so people need to be aware of the wildlife cause some could be aggressive so you need to watch your pets and kids,” Giles said.

Giles says this flooding has affected public health, the environment, and our economy for inland and coastal locations.

“The people who make a living off the coast off of shrimp, oysters, clams, they are going to be impacted by this,” Giles said. “The more bacteria, the more pollution, the longer the shellfish waters will be closed.”

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler says the eastern counties represent 71 percent of the state’s total farm cash receipts.

“While lots of crops were harvested before the storm, many crops, such as soybeans, sweet potatoes, peanuts and cotton, were just in the early stages of harvest,” Troxler said.

Burdette says riverkeepers plan to do some sampling as the water begins to go down.

In the meantime, they will continue reporting any farms that appear to be contaminating the rivers to division of environmental quality.

If you have well water, officials say it’s important to get it tested before drinking it. They add everyone should abide by any boil advisories issued.