Corporation should do the right thing

Published 1:15 am Thursday, April 4, 2013

Why won’t Martin Marietta Materials do the right thing? That is a question many of us have been asking ourselves. I am not opposed to the mine. My problem is, why are they seeking to dump up to 12,000,000 gallons of wastewater into the headwaters of the Blounts Creek? Why ruin this productive and beautiful natural resource? The apparent reason and the reason stated by MMM is that any other option would be more costly. Simply stated, the reason is profit. While I support this corporation’s efforts to a profit, I am opposed to it making a profit at the expense of one of our last pristine brackish estuaries.

The water being pumped out of the ground will be drinkable. Other pollutants associated with a mining and trucking operation will undoubtedly mix with the ground water. Hydraulic oil, rubber from tires, fuel from the trucks, heavy metals associated with the stone being mined as well as the stone dust created by pulverizing the stone will all be added to the “clean” water being dumped into the headwaters of the creek.

There are a number of other problems associated with a discharge of this magnitude. The turbidity (which determines the amount of light penetrating the water) will be increased, This will cause changes in the vegetation now growing on the bottom of the creek. The pH (acidity/base) of the water will be changed (a violation of state law), as well as the salinity and potentially the temperature. All of these changes will eliminate many of the species currently found in abundance in Blounts Creek such as rock fish (striped bass), speckled trout, flounder, drum and blue-clawed crabs to name a few.

At the public hearing and in letters to the Division of Water Quality, the “environmental study” commissioned by MMM and done by CZR has been analyzed and severely criticized by several “real” scientists. It is not in fact a scientific study but a distortion that arrives at conclusions that MMM commissioned. It got what it paid for. One of CZR’s conclusions was that the discharge would cause no significant changes to the creek. It would seem to me that the elimination of this many species should be considered a “significant change.”

Having owned and operated a business myself, I know that as my operating costs increased I had several choices. I could reduce my profit. I could attempt to offset the increase by reducing other expenses. Or I could pass the additional cost on to the consumer. Prior to passing these costs on I had to consider my competition. I had to stay competitive. If not I would lose business and therefore profit. As far as I know MMM has no competition locally. It said at the informational public meeting that having the mine here would save the municipalities and contractors money because they would not have to truck the stone from locations much further away. If disposing of this water in a safe and responsible way added a few dollars to each ton of stone, the contractors and municipalities would still save money — not quite as much — and MMM would incur no additional costs. It would have passed the costs on to the consumer.

Another unanswered question. Why would MMM be allowed to waste up to 12,000,000 gallons of water each day and in addition lower the aquifer, which has already been lowered by 10 feet, by another 5 feet? We have been told that lowering this water source by 15 feet will potentially result in the fresh water, now being used by hundreds of people in this area, gradually being replaced by salt water. It would seem to me the Division of Water Quality would have to oppose this waste of one of our most valuable and diminishing natural resources.

Why haven’t our county commissioners and elected state representatives opposed the destruction of this natural resource? They can support the mine and the creation of jobs, but demand that MMM do the right thing and dispose of the wastewater in a responsible manner. The deadline for public comments is fast approaching (April 12).

Please let the people at DWQ know that you expect them to live up to their own mission statement and that they must not approve this application. Its sole purpose for existing is to protect our water supplies and maintain the quality of our rivers, stream and lakes. We expect DWQ to protect us from this type of abuse. At the very least, MMM must be required to do an environmental impact study.

Please send your comments to: Division of Water Quality, Attn. Ms. Amy Adams, 943 Washington St., Washington, NC 27889.

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Edward V. Rhine is a retired math and science teacher and a resident of Chocowinity