Commentary

Jimmy Morgan: Developers shifting burden for water contamination

July 19, 2013 

The N.C. Farm Coalition opposes all legislative efforts that may lead to additional contamination of Piedmont watersheds, loss of rural property owners’ watersheds, and risks to citizens health and well being.

Several bills, including SB 515 and SB 315, fail to grasp the true debacle. SB 315 regarding Durham’s controversial proposed “751 South” underscores a predicted, formulaic and hackneyed response to a long forecast, irreparable crisis. Namely, that unrestrained urban development continues to deplete potable water resources to harmful, unsustainable levels while state leaders fail to address the No. 1 underlying cause: harmful run-off from urban development. Both bills are mere Band-Aids for the Piedmont’s mounting drinking water contamination crisis as first reported by the EPA in 2001.

The divide-and-conquer war being waged in Durham and the General Assembly illustrates the long-standing hidden agenda of private interests that have permeated and influenced N.C. government at every level for decades. And, sadly, legislators don’t appear to get it! Proponents of SB 315 and SB 515 predictably are advancing their agenda amid the “issue du jour” – N.C.’s need for jobs, jobs, jobs! Few seem to understand that it is development interests that continue to advertise for another 500,000 carpetbaggers to move to N.C.’s Piedmont by 2020. How self-serving! How tragic!

It’s clear that, once again, the developer-driven juggernaut that failed in 2012 to compel local governments to repeal their 2010 federally mandated water-protection plans have enlisted legislators to do the job for them.

Has everyone forgotten how, during Durham’s DENR-sponsored 2010 hearings, 195 environmental experts unanimously reported there’s already insufficient potable water for incumbent citizen use; none for the half million being enticed to the Piedmont by 2020, and no technology – existing or on the horizon – capable of dealing with the region’s water contamination crisis. The very problem, according to the EPA (2001), primarily stems from unfettered urban development in Piedmont counties.

Get with it folks! Wresting control from local governments and transferring such to DENR is no solution!

Why not? Well, among the many reasons, it was DENR which, in 2006, revealed then-draft regulations to development interests not adopted until mid-2009. This provided nearly four years for developers to lobby for even more laws harmful to N.C.’s drinking-water supply, and also provided carte-blanche opportunities to local and country governments to effectively steal the water rights of rural property owners and farmers so that additional urban development could max-out contaminant loading limits.

Control by the state merely shifts the burden without providing a true remedy for our drinking-water-contamination problem. And in so doing, it exonerates responsible parties – development interests that, under N.C.’s extraterritorial jurisdiction laws, steadily infiltrated local and county governments for decades to, in turn, rape our state. It was in 2009 that The N.C. Farm Coalition first informed legislators that the only solution would be to “dumb down” federal environmental standards. But, what does this say about North Carolina? And what are the consequences for its citizens’ health and well-being?

Yes, divide and conquer is alive and well in North Carolina politics. Its solution for pollution remains dilution. And, as pursued by development interests beginning in 2001, whereas farmland can no longer sufficiently off-load urban contamination, private interests now expect to shift the responsibility for this disaster onto the state and its citizens. This is no solution. SB 315 and SB515 don’t come close to achieving what’s truly necessary to ensure N.C.’s economic future!

This commentary was submitted by Jimmy Morgan on behalf of the N.C. Farm Coalition.

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