It’s day 72 of my 365 Days of Living Deliberately blog. Here in North Carolina, coal ash is what people are talking about; there’s really not a much more serious subject to those of us who live in the region and whose water has been assaulted. I just wish that people would talk about problems before they become catastrophes, but I guess that it’s human nature to avoid the unpleasant whenever possible. Now that the coal ash disaster has occurred, though, there is no avoiding the inconvenient truth about the dangers of coal ash and about Duke Energy, the state, and the EPA’s criminal negligence.
It’s time to get to the root of why our state could have such a terrible disaster as the coal ash disaster here in North Carolina and Virginia. There is no time to waste. Contaminated coal ash is steadily being carried downstream into the Roanoke River Basin, into Kerr and Gaston Lakes. Catching a ride in the currents, the coal ash settles down in pockets and turns, around rocks where the water slows, and then the coal ash sludge lies there waiting to be stirred up by a forceful current, waiting to catch a ride weeks, months, years, decades from now, carrying the promise of poison downstream and up a toxic food chain and into our bloodstreams.
The roots of our “business friendly” governor and legislature who have sanctioned Duke Energy’s abuse and criminal neglect, go back to 1981, when the North Carolina General Assembly passed the Hazardous Waste Management Act which gives the state’s governors the right to override local sentiment or local ordinances when it comes to hazardous landfills. The Act was an overt green light for polluting industries looking to locate in states with lawmakers who were willing to protect their business interests over the interests of the people.
After that Act was passed, Governor Hunt implemented the toxic waste “business-friendly” model that has been used by former governors and is being used today by Governor McCrory and his Duke-affiliated administration:
Governor Hunt used nearly $1 million of State Police and National Guardsmen to forcibly bury 60,000 tons of toxic PCBs in poor, largely minority Warren County in a landfill that was just above the water table.
The Governor’s Warren County campaign manager attempted to sell 600 acres to Waste Management . Inc., for a national hazardous waste landfill but was stopped.
Governor Hunt’s own law firm, I am told, represented Thermyl-Kem, a toxic waste incineration company that spent years attempting to get a foot-hold in NC.
Hunt’s toxic waste “business friendly” model expanded to nuclear waste when he offered the state as “host” for the Southeast Low-Level Radioactive Waste Compact which would have made NC a nuclear waste dumping grounds for the Southeast and beyond.
In the 1990’s, in his 3rd and 4th terms in office, the Hunt “waste-friendly business model” continued as commercial waste industries attempted to build mega landfills for NC and out-of-state trash.
In the late 2000’s, the “polluter-friendly” business model continued as Homeland Security and a consortium of politicians and state and university officials attempted to build a national, massive, deadly disease germ lab, landfill, and incinerator — which was successfully stopped.
Now, under the leadership of Governor Pat McCrory and the legislature that backs him, the “polluter business-friendly” model continues and is being promoted with policies and legislation that legalize pollution. The Duke Energy coal ash disaster is unfortunately indicative of this thirty-five year history of executive and legislative abuse of power, especially when it comes to toxic, hazardous, and radioactive waste.