For just over 24 hours, this community was subjected to the type of water restrictions that families in Flint, Michigan, have been dealing with for years.
I make water conservation a way of life, but this experience opened my eyes to how much I still take tap water for granted. The inability to turn on my tap affected my cooking, my hygiene, and my sense of security.
What would it be like to live like that every day with no end in sight?
It’s one thing to lament the coal ash spill in the Dan River or to be horrified by the hog waste lagoons in eastern North Carolina, but now we have a tiny little glimpse into the lives of those who have been impacted by those environmental disasters. What we experienced for one day, they experience every day.
It’s so easy to say water is precious, but once it’s unavailable that claim becomes grounded in a deeper understanding. It becomes personal, and in these days when legislation to protect our rivers and streams is being undercut, our local emergency can have an upside if it stimulates us all to be more vocal advocates.
Our local water emergency is still being reviewed to determine the cause(s). Those reports may have been received prior to the publication of this column, but as I write, I don’t know much more than the general public. One thing I know without doubt, though, is that our local emergency does not stem from the vested corporate and political interests that are threatening water quality in other communities around North Carolina, the East Coast, and indeed, the country.
The short-term profits generated by Duke Energy, Dominion Power, and Dakota Access, among others, by pushing forward projects that have a high probability of polluting drinking water should not trump public health. In North Carolina, my faith lies with Gov. Cooper and Attorney General Stein to bring back environmental regulations that protect our streams and rivers. But they can’t do it alone. We need to make our support for clean waterways known.
Here are some ways you can become a water activist.
▪ Join the two-week opposition walk in March along the 600-mile route of the proposed Atlantic Coast pipeline.
▪ Write or call Richard Burr and Thom Tillis in support of the valuable work of the EPA.
▪ Send a financial contribution to the Environmental Justice Network and/or the Waterkeeper Alliance. A dedicated contribution to the Steve Wing International Environmental Justice Award would also honor the life of one of our local environmental justice advocates and scholar.
▪ Talk to your state representatives and encourage them to work across the aisles to re-instate minimum set backs/easements along streams and rivers.
▪ Write to Gov. Cooper and Attorney General Stein and ask them to review the N.C. Division of Water Resources decision to award a mining permit to Martin Marietta that allows the company to dump up to 12 million gallons of mining wastewater into the headwaters of Blount Creek in each day (Beaufort County). Or send a contribution to the Southern Environmental Law Center to help them fight this battle.
If political activism isn’t your thing, you can still have an impact locally by visiting our local bars and restaurants more frequently over the next few weeks. Those businesses took major financial hits because of our local water emergency. Invite your friends to join you for a couple of extra dinners and/or drinks throughout February and let’s show our local businesses we care!
Terri Buckner lives in the Carrboro ETJ. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.