Actions, not words

Published 3:21 am Thursday, September 27, 2007

By Staff
People are complaining about the water quality of the Pamlico-Tar River.
But are these complainers, other than sounding off, doing anything to improve the river’s water quality. Or are they all talk, no action? And do these complainers realize that the river’s water quality at Washington is determined to a great degree by what happens upstream at places such as Greenville, Tarboro and Rocky Mount?
When the river, with its headwaters near Roxboro, arrives in Washington, the city inherits the river the way the river was sent to it by upstream entities. Can the city do something to help improve the river? Yes; and it does. So do other municipalities, counties and entities upstream.
Are they doing enough to improve the river’s water quality? Probably not. But they, unlike most of those complaining about the river, are making efforts. There’s no doubt they could do more, if taxpayers are willing to pay the costs of improving the river.
Why should taxpayers bear the burden of such costs? Who causes the river’s water quality to deteriorate? It’s people. It’s developers. It’s farmers. It’s wastewater-treatment plants. It’s waste from hog lagoons.
As Pogo said: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
What is being done to protect the river from further degradation, if not improve it?
Washington, Greenville and other local governments in the Pamlico-Tar River watershed are doing their best to abide by the Tar-Pamlico Stormwater Rules, a set of regulations the state and federal governments put in place to help protect the river and its estuary from pollution. These rules establish certain requirements for local programs based on the nutrient strategy’s goal of reducing nitrogen loading to the estuary by 30 percent from 1991 levels. Washington is one of several local governments along the river required to implement the program.
Washington and 10 other local governments fall under these rules. The rules restrict the amount of nutrients that can wash off urban areas and into the river. High nutrient levels degrade water quality, cause algae blooms and endanger aquatic life.
Washington residents and property owners pay stormwater-management fees. Those fees are used to help make improvements to the city’s stormwater drainage system and comply with those state and federal rules regarding the quantity and quality of stormwater from the city entering the river. Other cities and towns charge similar fees for similar purposes.
So, if other local governments and entities upstream don’t do a good job of cleaning up the river, Washington receives the results of their efforts. The dirtier the river when it arrives at Washington, the more effort it takes here to clean up what could have been cleaned up upstream.
Upstream or downstream, any city, town or other entity along the river has a responsibility to do its part to make the river cleaner. It’s a shared responsibility, but everyone and everything along the river must do their parts to clean up the river.
Complain about the river. Please do. Such complaints will remind, and should remind, people about the need to protect the river.
Complaints are not enough. Just ask the folks at the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation.
They complain, but they act. That makes a world of difference.
And a world of difference will be required to improve the river.