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Editorial: On Earth Day 2015, clean water is on our mind

A lot of Earth Days have come and gone in the 45 years since the late Sen. Gaylord Nelson founded the annual observance.

Around here, they’ve often passed with little notice beyond programs in our schools and sparsely attended observances by environmental groups.

But this one feels different. This one should get more widespread notice around Fayetteville and the Cape Fear region, thanks to a year in which we’ve been inundated with environmental concerns that may pose a threat of one sort or another.

Consider:

A chicken-processing plant failed to win community support here. There were many reasons why, but the biggest was concern about what spray-irrigation of plant waste could do to the Cape Fear River’s water quality.

For the past two years, residents of the region — especially in Lee County — have fought against the state’s decision to allow natural-gas exploration using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. And when it became clear that the state was moving forward, they fought for the strictest possible safety standards. The resulting regulations are largely positive, but hardly the strongest standards in the country, which some of our politicians promised.

We’re worried about coal ash on several fronts. Large impoundments of the toxin-laced ash sit at former power plants on the Cape Fear River in Moncure and near the Lumber River in Robeson County. The state was slow to respond to safety and cleanup concerns, and ash ponds at both locations are a threat to the local water supply. Duke Energy’s plan to empty some of its ash ponds is to truck it to abandoned clay mines in Lee and Chatham counties, where residents correctly see it as a threat.

Concerns continue about North Carolina’s hog industry, which raises about 10 million hogs a year, producing about 40 million gallons of waste that is largely disposed of in open cesspools that sometimes break open like the coal-ash pond did in Eden last year, sending the waste into public waterways.

Cary won its fight to divert more water from the Cape Fear basin and return it to the Neuse. That’s our water supply, serving something approaching a million people between the Triangle and Wilmington. The N.C. House approved a measure Monday that orders a study of the long-term viability of the Cape Fear as a municipal water supply. About time.

Every one of us is touched in one way or another by those concerns. Think about it, on this Earth Day 2015.

In related news, Could this breakthrough lessen the environmental burden of oil spills?

This article was from The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.