VOICE BY VESSEL: Blounts Creek Boat RallyPublished 7:45pm Saturday, August 24, 2013
At the foot of the Blounts Creek bridge, a statement was made Saturday: Stop. Think. Find a better way.
Nearly 100 vessels — pleasure craft filled with people, kayakers, even a lone jet-ski rider — gathered for the Blounts Creek Boat Rally in a show of solidarity against the reasoning allowing key permits to be issued to Martin Marietta Materials by the North Carolina Division of Water Resources.
The company aims to build a 649-acre limestone pit-mine in southern Beaufort County. The state is currently weighing the issuance of one permit, the Central Coastal Plain Capacity Use Area (CCPCUA) permit, which will allow Martin Marietta to pump up to 12 million gallons of water per day out of the Castle Hayne Aquifer. It has granted another, the National Pollution Discharge Elimination (NPDES) permit, which will allow the same amount of water to be discharged into the headwaters of Blounts Creek.
Blounts Creek consists of brackish water — a mix of salt and fresh water — and is recognized by the state as a nursery area for many saltwater species. But a constant freshwater influx could potentially destroy that primary nursery environment, according to Heather Jacobs Deck, riverkeeper with the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation.
Those in attendance Saturday agreed. Their signs and banners said so — many expressing variations of “Save our Creek;” others more specific, depicting Martin Marietta as the puppeteer to the Division of Water Quality’s puppet.
And many there, including Blounts Creek resident Al Gerard, don’t disapprove of the mine itself — it’s the method.
“There’s a better way to do this,” Gerard said.
Gerard retired in 2004 as the environmental health supervisor for Beaufort County. He’s close to the issue, not only from an engineer’s perspective, but his family has owned land on Blounts Creek for 300 years. In a handout, Gerard cites a recent case in which designers of a new wastewater treatment plant on the South side of the Pamlico River proposed to discharge water into Blounts Creek. A study done at the time suggested a flow of even 10,000 gallons of freshwater per day would be detrimental to the creek’s environment. It was decided to discharge the water into the wider river.
One of the objections to the NPDES permit granting 12 million gallons of discharge per day is that the state has not required Martin Marietta to explore — or adopt —alternatives for the discharge, according to Gerard.
“There are viable options out there,” Deck said. “They’re more expensive but they haven’t addressed that, instead they’re doing it on the cheap and harming the creek.
“Division of Water Resources is responsible for protecting our natural resources. Their mission seems to be to protect the economy, but you can’t have a good economy without clean water.”
To see more images of the Blounts Creek Boat Rally click here.