My Turn: Is this a process or is it a farce instead?Published 7:37pm Monday, August 12, 2013
Many local residents as well as residents of neighboring communities attended the meeting held by the N.C. Division of Water Resources on July 30 at Beaufort County Community College. This meeting is part of the “permitting process” that Martin Marietta must go through to obtain the necessary permits from our great state of North Carolina which will allow it to open and operate the Vanceboro quarry. The stated purpose of this particular meeting was to hear any concerns that the public might have and after these concerns were heard, to answer any questions the public might have. Many concerns were raised — no questions were answered. As a matter of fact, the hearing officer stated at one point that the question required a yes or no answer and he could not, therefore, answer it. The tone of the meeting was established by the very first slide used by the Division of Water Resources. It said, “DWR is ready to issue a CCPCUA water withdrawal permit.” This language also appears in the handouts itdistributed at the meeting. One of the questions asked by a resident was, “Have you heard anything here tonight that might make you reconsider issuing the permit?” The question was not answered. We were only reminded that the meeting was part of “a process.” The division is very comfortable hiding behind the process. Apparently, if it follows the process, it is not responsible for any decision it makes and it can make any decision it wishes ,or what is more likely, any decision its superiors tell them to make.
When you begin a meeting by saying you are ready to issue the permit, what is the point of the meeting?
It is time for all residents of Beaufort and surrounding counties to realize that the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources is not looking out for our natural resources or for us. It and our elected county officials are pandering to this multi-billion dollar corporation, and we the taxpayers will pay the bill. Increased heavy truck traffic on N.C. Highway 33 will destroy the road. Will MMM get the bill for repaving? Wells will go dry. MMM has said in the plan it submitted that “if they determine that they are responsible for the damage” it will make the well owner whole (my words). How long will this take and is it reassuring to know that the decision is left up to them (the fox watching the chickens)? By the way, the monitoring of the discharge of 12 million gallons of water into Blounts Creek is also left up to them, and there are no penalties spelled out if they violate the terms of the permit. I would hate to be a farmer who depends on this aquifer to irrigate my crops, especially during a period of drought, and then have my well go dry. How long will it take for MMM to determine that they are responsible? And if they determine they are responsible, how long will it take to provide the needed water for the farmer? Will they be responsible for the lost crops? Does it sound like DENR is looking out for anyone other than MMM? The permit should at the very least include requirements for dispute resolution, if MMM determines the problem with the well is not a result of its lowering of the aquifer. Reasonable timelines for a response from MMM as well as penalties if provisions of the permit are not adhered to should also be included. These requirements, at the very least, should be part of the permit.
We need to unite and support the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation as it attempts to protect our natural resources and us. It is beginning to look like the only solution to our problem may be in the courts.
Edward V. Rhine is a Chocowinity resident.