Major gift establishes memorial water-quality fund

Published 12:43 pm Saturday, October 3, 2020

From Sound Rivers


In memory of Gene Pate, a new Sound Rivers Water Quality Monitoring Fund was established this month to preserve the long-term health and vitality of the Pamlico and Neuse rivers’ watersheds and the families who live, work and recreate in the communities that he loved.

The Water Quality Fund will allow Sound Rivers to expand sampling programs to include pollutants currently too expensive to monitor, such as algal bloom toxins, PFAS (also known as forever chemicals) and microplastics.

“The generous gift that made this fund possible will enhance Sound Rivers’ ability to do work that is vital to our mission,” said Executive Director Heather Deck. “Water-quality testing helps Sound Rivers determine the causes of things like fish kills, toxic algal blooms and other issues so that we can work to eliminate those sources of pollution.”

As climate change warms our rivers, the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water drops, stressing the ecosystem. Sadly, fish kills are becoming ever more common in warm months, and in this new normal, it is crucial to minimize all other stresses on the environment. This new fund comes at a vital time, and the work it will support enhances Sound Rivers’ ability to protect the waters we all love. Additionally, the work supported by the fund will provide valuable data that researchers will be able to use in an era where funding cuts have limited scientific inquiry.

The fund will also ensure programs such as Sound Rivers’ Swim Guide, which monitors popular recreation locations in the Tar-Pamlico and Neuse watersheds during the summer, can continue for many years.

Gene Pate was born and raised in Kinston and practiced medicine there for his entire career. As a physician, he was invested in the health of the community, and he also kept a sailboat for many years in Oriental. He spent much of his time at a family home on the Pamlico, and he loved to reminisce about his years as a counselor at Camp Leach and his time on the river with family during his youth.

Also in Sound Rivers’ news, Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper Jill Howell and Environmental Projects Coordinator Clay Barber will be paddling the length of the Tar River on their first “Tour de Tar” from Oct. 7-17, to bring awareness to the beauty of the river and the threats it faces. They’re asking the public to consider making a sponsorship gift in honor of their paddle during the month of October — all Tour de Tar sponsorship gifts will benefit the new Water Quality Monitoring Fund. You can learn more about the Tour de Tar and Sound Rivers’ work at