french broad river pollution

Pollutants continue to flow through the seeps, entering the river at points that used to be, but now aren’t, covered by the permit. When the dam failed, 1.1 billion gallons of coal ash slurry destroyed nearby homes and property. Enjoying a craft beer alongside the French Broad River. Over the next several decades, the ancient river became increasingly polluted with modern garbage—everything from household waste to industrial runoff. Thallium poses health risks to people and is suspected to cause cancer. “Half of those not only failed, but exceeded the safe standard by almost five times.”. Leaks Bypassing the On-Site Treatment System. Despite the acknowledged contamination, in December 2012 the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission voted to allow the Asheville facility to continuing contaminating groundwater. E. coli, a type of fecal coliform, is a species of bacteria found in the environment, food and human and animal intestines. “Progress can’t continue to ignore the pollution that results from storing toxic ash left from burning coal.” The plant has two old coal ash ponds, built in 1964 and 1982, that sprawl over 90 acres adjacent to the French Broad River. While the midtown location is now closed for the season, the South location is still running 2 1/2-hour float trips from just north of the Asheville Airport to the outfitter access on Brevard Road. Ditzler said the company relies on information from the DEQ and health department rather than that of MountainTrue. She said she has had many questions from customers about the brown water. Some Southeast states have tougher standards for handling household garbage than they do for the disposal of coal ash. Check Out Past Issues : In previous issues we’ve gone over nutrients, pollution, and life in our streams and rivers. Photo by New Belgium Brewery. In 2019, the program found more than half of the sites failed to meet the EPA’s E. coli standard for safe recreation. This year the results have been even worse, said Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson, with 69% failing. The DWR is monitoring to evaluate for 303(d) listing, to assist with source identification and ultimately pollution reduction, but it is not focused on recreational use, Gurney said. More: Riverkeeper: E. coli-pocalypse in the French Broad River. The Riverkeeper’s is to monitor for recreational use advisories. On river right, the stacks from Duke Energy’s Asheville coal-fired power plant adjacent to the French Broad can be seen through the trees. Outdoor groups are advocating for the EPA to implement strong, enforceable rules to regulate coal ash. The upper mainstem French Broad River system drains from the high mountains of the Blue Ridge and flows through the broad, flat valley of the Asheville Basin. Binding is sound. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. A former industrial swath along the river, the greenway/bikeway provides accessibility to the river that we didn't have before. It begins just west of the Eastern Continental Divide near Rosman NC and flows into Tennessee where it is impounded behind Douglas Dam and continues to the confluence with the Holston River in Knoxville, TN. In a presentation earlier this year to the city’s Planning and Economic Development Committee, Landon Davidson with the DWR and Carson outlined some steps the city could take toward pollution control, including evaluating stormwater program enhancements to determine bacteria sources, enhancing public outreach through signage at river access points and forming a Stormwater Task Force. Polluted water seeps through the earthen dams into streams, rivers, and groundwater; and these impoundments can suffer from structural problems.” As of now, there’s no reason to stop recreating in the French Broad, but we must take action and address the three major threats posed by wet coal ash storage to ensure that the river stays healthy. 8 3/4" X 10 1/4". Visit for more information about coal ash in your area and what you can do to put a stop to wet coal ash storage. Testing results have been significantly worse this year than in 2019. While Mayfield said she has been urging creation of the task force “for years,” she hasn’t been able to get traction among council members. None of the sites within Asheville city limits passed, and the Hominy Creek Greenway’s results topping out at over 70,000 cfu or 300 times the EPA standard, Carson said. Of the 34 sites that were tested, only four passed. Riverkeeper: E. coli-pocalypse in the French Broad River, NC DEQ issues water quality violation notice to Tryon Equestrian Center, WNC outdoor outfitters reopen, with COVID-19 safety precautions. The Asheville facility is a microcosm of communities across Appalachia. Could a bacteria-chomping mussel be the answer to E. coli in the French Broad River? By 1951, author Wilma Dykman called the river “too thick to drink and too thin to plow.” She wrote The French Broad, which raised awareness about the polluted river. As the French Broad nears Asheville, the river becomes much wider, and a water-treatment facility built on the river’s banks provides drinking water to the region. Progress Energy is one of the greatest offenders, with their power plant located south of Asheville polluting both the water and air, according to the study. As staff attorney Amelia Burnette of the Southern Environmental Law Center put it: “Wet storage of coal ash waste in unlined ponds causes a slew of problems. Not only does the City have a legal obligation to protect water quality, Council’s commitment to racial equity demands action to protect residents of the Southside neighborhood from the highest pollution levels … These waterways support critical wildlife habitat for many species, such as the hellbender salamander and rainbow trout. The Asheville plant, constructed in the 1960s, lacks the advancements of newer plants that use a dry-storage system where coal is stored in lined holes under a secure covering. North Carolina does not currently have a regulatory standard for E. coli. The Riverkeeper frequently monitors levels of E. Coli -- the bacteria found in human and animal waste. But overall she feels comfortable having people in her tubes on the water. It flows northeast into Henderson County, where it turns northwest and courses through Buncombe and Madison Counties. It's magical. If the site’s failed 80% of the time, you probably shouldn’t be swimming there,” he said. While the previous week showed only 12% of sites passed the safe standard for E. coli, this week 44% passed. … I slowly glide by the River Arts District in Asheville where more than 150 artists have studios. In March the state of North Carolina filed a separate lawsuit. French Broad River weekly water quality testing by MountainTrue and NC DEQ show Asheville fails to meet the EPA’s E. coli standard for safe recreation. She envisions “an informal, time-limited group that would come together, with experts from MountainTrue, Asheville GreenWorks, RiverLink and maybe other folks in the community, to prioritize what the issues that the city should be tackling and trying to make progress on those.”. The French Broad Riverkeeper, a program of environmental nonprofit MountainTrue, works with volunteers to conduct weekly bacteria sampling along the French Broad River throughout the spring, summer and fall, and posts results at to let people know where it’s safest to recreate. “Unfortunately, this week's results are once again abysmal, with 88% percent of the sites we monitor failing to meet EPA’s safe standard for E. coli,” Carson said. The agency is now sampling water on the French Broad River at Old Fanning Bridge Road, Bent Creek, Craven Street, Pearson’s Bridge and in Woodfin. The French Broad flows through the city of Asheville, where it picks up the Swannanoa River and continues north into Tennessee. The Pigeon River flows across North Carolina’s Haywood County and into Tennessee, where it joins the French Broad River. French Broad River Recreation & Pollution In the 1890s, citizens of the rapidly growing town of Asheville turned to the French Broad as the solution for a stinky issue: trash disposal . She said the city needs a group that's looking at best practices and advocating for more dollars from the city for these kinds of investments. Dams throughout Appalachia hold back tens of millions of coal ash. “Enter in Conserving Carolina,” Scott says. The stretch consists mostly of splashy and fun Class II and Class III rapids, with one Class IV rapid, Frank Bell’s, just before the town of Hot Springs. If the Southern Appalachian peaks are the soul of Western North Carolina, the French Broad River is the region’s pulse. The week of Aug. 6 showed the average E. coli level was 4,000 cfu, while the week of Aug. 13 showed an average of 455. If we wait too long, we won’t be able to separate contaminated groundwater from the river or pull heavy metals from the deep sediment layers. These cookies will be stored in your browser only with your consent. Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. Comparing the 11 most recent weeks of sampling to the same weeks in 2019, seven out of 11 weeks in 2020 are worse. Out of these cookies, the cookies that are categorized as necessary are stored on your browser as they are essential for the working of basic functionalities of the website. But the lurking dangers of the unsafe disposal of coal ash threaten the long-term health of the river and the region. This website uses cookies to improve your experience while you navigate through the website. 3. The City of Asheville is … The Holston River has played an important role in the history of East Tennessee from prehistoric times to today. “If impaired, it would only include the sections that we are sampling and where the data supports an impairment which indicates the stream segment is not meeting Class B designated use,” Gurney said. The ponds are unlined and earthen dams are used to contain the contamination. The Duke Energy coal-fired power plant sits on a 90-acre complex adjacent to the French Broad River just seven miles downstream of Asheville. The French Broad now supplies over one million people with drinking water, countless recreational opportunities, and scenic vistas. After the Kingston disaster, the EPA sent out inspectors to determine the structural safety of these dams and rated the 1964 Asheville pond as “poor.” Since then, the EPA has upgraded the dam to a “satisfactory” rating. Once referred to as the “Trashy Broad,” today people no longer smell the French Broad River before seeing her. Essentially permits-to-pollute, each permit allows the recipient to discharge a certain amount of pollution daily. 94pp. A toxic stew of pig poop, sewage and coal ash. I encourage folks when they ask about an individual site, look at the trend, not just one week’s numbers. The week of May 20 of this year was the worst week of sampling in more than seven years of data collection by MountainTrue, he said. “The ideal situation is the creation of a stormwater commission, just like we have a tree commission because I think this is an issue that needs that level of attention,” Mayfield said. Samples taken by the French Broad Riverkeeper showed higher than normal levels of pollutants from coal combustion waste, including boron and metals like cobalt, barium, manganese, and nickel, all listed as toxic substances by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Just downstream of the facility, the river becomes a hotbed for recreational opportunities and riverside tourist destinations. Point source pollution comes directly from industry and sewage treatment plants, which discharge treated wastewater. The French Broad River flows 218 miles (351 km) from near the town of Rosman in Transylvania County, North Carolina, into the state of Tennessee.Its confluence with the Holston River at Knoxville is the beginning of the Tennessee River.The river flows through the counties of Transylvania, Buncombe, Henderson, and Madison in North Carolina, and Cocke, Jefferson, Sevier, and Knox in Tennessee. Karen Chávez is an award-winning outdoors and environment reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times and USA TODAY Network. Sediment and bacteria pollution are the most common sources of pollution in the French Broad Watershed, Carson said. Nobody knows the real levels of contamination. The French Broad River supplies drinking water to more than one million people and is frequently used for recreational water activities, such as swimming and kayaking. NCDENR data from the past 18 months shows a number of pollution problems and violations, but river quality advocates communicate the tremendous improvement from decades ago when “the river was too thin to plow and too thick to drink,” said Hartwell Carson, the French Broad Riverkeeper with the Asheville-based environmental nonprofit Western North Carolina Alliance. She has three months left on council now that she is running for the 49th District in the N.C. Senate. It has both a legal and moral obligation here.”. Julie Mayfield, co-executive director of MountainTrue, is also a city councilwoman who is promoting the task force. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website. In 2015, … Your California Privacy Rights/Privacy Policy, Nasty Branch in Asheville’s Southside Neighborhood*, French Broad River at River Arts District*. Only fifteen minutes from downtown, a series of ledges spread out over about 200 yards of river provides paddlers the opportunity to work out doing attainments up the rapid. Related: NC DEQ issues water quality violation notice to Tryon Equestrian Center. If the Southern Appalachian peaks are the soul of Western North Carolina, the French Broad River is the region’s pulse. Outdoor outfitters say they have been running fewer trips this summer, but that is due to COVID-19 safety restrictions, not because of possibly high levels of fecal matter in the water. At the same time, the Buncombe County Health Department has not issued any recreation or health advisories for the popular, easily accessible river so far this summer, implying that the river is safe for recreation. Germs and bacteria can linger in your sink and transfer to your dishes. The French Broad is one of the few north-flowing rivers in the country. “This isn’t just an issue of public health, it’s also an issue of adapting to climate change and addressing racial equity, which the city has named as top priorities,” Carson said. “We tell them don't drink the water. High levels of E. coli in surface water is an indication of potential point and nonpoint source pollution, according to the DEQ. The state agency ensures safe drinking water, evaluates water quality and enforces actions for violations of environmental regulations. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. He said although the bacteria levels improved this week, it’s important to look at the overall trend. During the 18th century, industrialization swept the river’s banks and the river’s pollution kept rate with the urban development. The Ledges Whitewater Park offers the perfect post-study or after-work paddling destination. Already people are flocking to enjoy it. With the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, the river was on its way to becoming the world-class recreation area enjoyed today. French Broad River. If you have open sores, you either need to cover them really well or don't get in the water,” Ditzler said. The dams, some of which are forty or more years old, are essentially ticking time bombs. Cleanup efforts are expected to continue into 2014 and cost $1.2 billion. If you’re interested in helping to make the French Broad River cleaner and healthier, you can take part in the French Broad Riverkeeper’s water quality volunteer programs. E. coli bacteria makes its way into rivers and streams through agricultural runoff, leaking sewer or septic infrastructure, and getting churned up during rain events, Carson said. The Riverkeeper project and the DEQ’s Water Resources Division’s E. coli monitoring program have different purposes. Portland: Photolucida, 2011. Hardcover. Years of conversations about the river’s missing sloughs led to an ambitious idea—to restore a floodplain back to its natural condition. These cookies do not store any personal information. RiverLink’s Watershed Resources program works to improve water quality in the French Broad River and its tributaries. Endangered mussel making a comeback in the French Broad River. Related: WNC outdoor outfitters reopen, with COVID-19 safety precautions. Carson states a sample taken Jan. 27 behind the former location of the 12 Bones Smokehouse contained 65 times more than the safe limit for E. coli, a bacteria known for causing illness in humans. 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