Cape Fear River ranked on national endangered list

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The Neuse and Cape Fear rivers have been listed as some of the most endangered rivers in the country, according to American Rivers.

“The America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a call to action to save rivers that face a critical decision in the next year,” said Peter Raabe, North Carolina Conservation Director with American Rivers. “For the sake of our clean drinking water and public health, our state’s leaders must act now help farmers to move millions of gallons of animal waste from the edge of the river and prevent it fouling the Neuse and Cape Fear rivers.”

Cape Fear Riverkeeper Kemp Burdette said eastern North Carolina has faced two 500-year floods from hurricanes in less than 20 years during which animal waste lagoons within the 100-year floodplain were breached.  Burdette said following Hurricane Matthew, he counted at least 16 flooded hog lagoon and were likely a lot more.

“Given our experience with floods in North Carolina, this practice is reckless and dangerous to people and the environment,” Burdette said. “State legislators must protect the drinking water supplies for millions and pass legislation that removes factory farms from floodplains in North Carolina.”

The environmental group is recommending to the North Carolina General Assembly to reinstate the Floodplain Buy Program it enacted after Hurricane Floyd struck in 1999 and also allow poultry farms to participate.

This would be a part of the Hurricane Matthew recovery bill which Burdette says would mean a quicker response.

“If we are talking about a bill that is going to fix problems that came to light when Hurricane Matthew hit, this is a big one and this is an easy way fix kind of the worst of the worst,” Burdette said.

Marine Biologist at UNCW Dr. Lawrence Cahoon says it’s important to take an proactive approach to keep not only ourselves safe, but animals too.

“We have had algae blooms in the Cape Fear River that can be problematic to the people too but we are concerned primarily, because of water treatment for us, we are concerned primarily with the effects of aquatic life,” Cahoon said.

With approximately 100 swine and poultry facilities still remaining in the 100-year floodplain this option would support farmers in their efforts to protect the water quality while giving them sufficient funding.

“The risk of damage to the public’s waters is clearly too high to continue to allow that situation to keep going on,” Cahoon said.

The report states more than four million people in North Carolina get their drinking water from these rivers, including the growing cities of Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville and Wilmington.

The rivers play a large role in the economically important seafood industry accounting for more than 90 percent of the commercial seafood species caught in North Carolina. The Neuse and Cape Fear rivers are vital to supporting North Carolina’s $1.7 billion fishing industry.

Categories: Local, New Hanover

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