Rep. Deb Butler speaks out against local contaminators

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Concerns over environmental impacts have forced local leaders to hit the pause button on considering incentives to bring a company back to Wilmington.

Now, state representative Deb Butler says she wants to raise awareness about the impacts of pollution to our area in general.

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“We’re a destination now and people want to live here, they want to raise their families here, provided we don’t contaminate it further,” Butler said.

New Hanover County commissioners delayed the decision on an incentives package for National Gypsum to come back to Wilmington in mid-February, after concerns about formaldehyde emissions were brought up. Wilmington City Council followed suit and held off on its discussion about incentives for the company.

In the weeks since, Butler says she has examined landfills, superfund sites, and industrial contaminators.

She says New Hanover County leads the state in emissions, and she wants that to stop.

“My point today is to illustrate the levels of contamination that we have in this community and that our economic development team needs to be doing a better job of focusing on 21st century jobs, not smokestacks,” Butler said.

Butler cited the film and tourism industries as better ways to grow Wilmington in the future.

Local environmentalist Kayne Darrell was there in support of what Butler had to say. She thinks the Port City is now at a crossroads.

“We have two paths we can go down. One of them is this healthy path, where we attract the kind of industries that won’t make things worse here. Or we can change our name to ‘Pollutington’ and go down this other path,” Darrell said.

We spoke with county commissioner Skip Watkins on the phone. He says he is waiting to hear from both environmental and economic experts before making his mind up about the future of National Gypsum.

We also reached out to Wilmington Business Development CEO Scott Satterfield to get his take on Butler’s opinion. We have not heard back.