Davidson River in the Pisgah National Forest in Transylvania County. File photo/Carolina Public Press

Press release from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, shared Feb. 16:

The state is seeking comments on its 2012 list of North Carolina’s rivers, streams, lakes and estuaries with impaired water quality and will use those comments to develop strategies for decreasing pollution in the affected waters.

Similar to the results of previous assessments, the 2012 list shows that about one-third of the waters assessed in the Tar Heel State have at least one impairment due to factors such as stormwater runoff.

While limited resources don’t permit monitoring of all waters in North Carolina, the state agency assesses primarily those waters where problems have existed in the past or where problems may exist based on proximity to human activities from towns, farms and development. A waterway is considered impaired when it doesn’t meet water quality standards or doesn’t support designated uses such as swimming, shellfish harvesting or drinking water supply.

People have until midnight March 12 to provide comments about the waters on the list, other waters they believe need to be included or those waterways they believe should be removed from the list. The list was published last week and can be found on the division’s website at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/wq/ps/mtu.

Every two years, the N.C. Division of Water Quality is required by the federal Clean Water Act to produce the 303(d) list of impaired waters for which a plan is to be developed. The plan identifies the sources of the pollution and the Total Maximum Daily Load, which is the amount of pollution a waterway can tolerate before it becomes impaired. The plan also includes an analysis to determine how much pollution should be reduced to protect the stream’s water quality and ensure that its designated uses are supported.

A number of factors contribute to impaired waterways, including bacteria, chemicals, sediment and stormwater that carries oil, grease and other pollutants from roads and other impervious surfaces.

For the 2012 draft water quality assessment, data were collected from 2006-2010 by several local, state and federal government agencies as well as university and discharger coalition monitoring programs. More than 5,000 assessments were completed in named North Carolina streams, reservoirs and estuaries. The 2012 assessment shows that 1,100 of the 3,300 reservoirs, streams and rivers assessed do not meet water quality standards or support designated uses.

The state agency uses the list to produce a plan for reducing pollution, but the list is also used by local governments and environmental groups to target watersheds for water quality improvements. In some cases, the N.C. Division of Water Quality can allocate federal grant money to aid local groups in the implementation of improved pollutant control practices.

To comment on the 2012 list, send written comments to: Jennifer Everett; N.C. Division of Water Quality Planning Section; 1617 Mail Service Center; Raleigh, NC 27699-1617 or e-mail Everett at jennifer.everett@ncdenr.gov.

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Angie Newsome is the executive director and editor of Carolina Public Press. Contact her at (828) 774-5290 or e-mail her at anewsome@carolinapublicpress.org.

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