Saving Blounts Creek, 3 years later

Published 5:38 pm Monday, December 12, 2016

Two weeks ago, a judge of the state Office of Administrative Hearings once again ruled that Beaufort County residents, business owners and environmental advocacy organizations have no reason to object to the state-sanctioned plan for a mining company to discharge millions of gallons of fresh water into a local creek. It’s a plan that many argue could be devastating to the ecosystem found there — an ecosystem designated by the state as a nursery for saltwater species.

The legal challenge has been dragging through the court system for three years, and once again, it will be headed back to Superior Court after Judge Phil Berger Jr.’s most recent ruling.

There are a few things in his ruling that seem a bit off the mark: Berger’s referral to the businesses owners who make a living off of Blounts Creek, even if is a modest living or a living supplemental to a retirement income, as hobbyists diminishes their jobs and the services they provide to those who enjoy Beaufort County’s waterways. To say an organization — Sound Rivers, formerly Pamlico-Tar River Foundation — that has worked tirelessly to advocate for the health of the river and its tributaries,  has helped form legislation protecting them from pollution, and was formed solely with those purposes in mind when the river was at its unhealthiest 30 years ago — to say that organization has no standing to challenge the state or the mining company could be considered an insult to the many people who have been, and continue to be, a part of that organization and believe wholeheartedly in its mission.

To say that no damage has been done, therefore there’s no reason to consider other options for the disposal of up to 12 million gallons of freshwater a day used in the mining process, other than to discharge it into a brackish creek, is not proactive. One does not put the seatbelt on after the accident; one can only treat the injuries instead. And some injuries can’t be treated. Destruction of the natural environment just might be one of them.

The latest ruling on the Blounts Creek issue just means more time and more money will be spent by local people protecting the river and more taxpayer money from the the state to defend its actions. At three years in, it’s clear that the Save Blounts Creek crowd is dedicated to its cause, to the benefit of all Beaufort County residents and visitors.
It’s clear, as well, that Beaufort County needs jobs to ensure a healthier economy for those who choose to live here. But the health of the county’s greatest natural resource shouldn’t be jeopardized in that quest.

It may take several more years before the Blounts Creek issue is resolved. In the meantime, everyone should find his own way to protect the river, the streams and creeks that create the same quality of life found on Blounts Creek.