Posts Tagged ‘Tennessee’

Surface Mining Banned in 75,000 Acres of Tennessee, But New Mine Proposed

Thursday, February 9th, 2017 - posted by Elizabeth E. Payne

By Elizabeth E. Payne

On Dec. 7, 2016, the U.S. Department of the Interior approved the state of Tennessee’s 2010 petition to designate nearly 75,000 acres off-limits for surface coal mining.

The ban includes ridgelines in the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area and the Emory River Tact Conservation Easement.

“It will provide tremendous economic value for tourism and recreation for future generations,” says DJ Coker, a resident of Campbell County, Tenn., who lives near the protected land.

The state’s petition was filed with the Department of the Interior in 2010 under then-governor Phil Bredesen. The December designation forbids surface coal mining within a 1,200-foot-wide corridor, with a 600-foot buffer on either side of 569 miles of ridgeline.

The decision makes limited exceptions for environmentally beneficial re-mining, such as removing dangerous features from abandoned mine sites, and it does not extend to existing permits, nor does it prohibit underground mining in this area.

Yet many mountain ridges, including in East Tennessee, are not protected. A new surface coal mine has been proposed on 1,500 acres in Claiborne County, Tenn. The proposed Cooper Ridge Mine is not inside the newly protected area and would negatively impact Valley Creek, Hurricane Creek and other mountain streams.

Mountaintop removal limited — not stopped — in Tennessee

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016 - posted by Elizabeth E. Payne
A former surface mining site in Tennessee. Photo taken October 2012, flight courtesy Southwings

A former surface mining site in Tennessee. Photo taken October 2012, flight courtesy Southwings

Residents of East Tennessee got some very good news earlier this month: The U.S. Department of the Interior approved the state’s 2010 petition to designate nearly 75,000 acres along ridgelines in the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area and the Emory River Tact Conservation Easement off limits for surface coal mining.

>> Some mountains are still threatened with mountaintop removal: Take action today!

Tennessee’s petition and the DOI’s decision recognize the economic value of tourism in the Cumberland Plateau.

“Today’s action honors Tennessee’s request to protect the Cumberland Plateau’s majestic forests, mountains and streams for future generations,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell when the news was announced.

“Secretary Jewell’s decision to approve the State of Tennessee’s petition to protect over 550 miles of ridgetops in Anderson, Campbell, Morgan and Scott counties as unsuitable for mining will help safeguard our state’s mountains without affecting mining operations in other parts of these counties or elsewhere in Tennessee,” said U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. “This means these ridgetop landscapes – and the rivers, streams and forests that surround them – can continue to bring millions of tourists and thousands of jobs to Tennessee.”

DJ Coker, a resident of Campbell County who lives near the protected land agrees. “It will provide tremendous economic value for tourism and recreation for future generations,” he says.

Under then-governor Phil Bredesen, the state made its petition in accordance with the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, which governs coal mining and the cleanup in its aftermath. Following years of review, the designation earlier this month protects a 1,200-foot-wide corridor in four counties, with a 600-foot buffer on either side of 569 miles of ridgeline.

This means that these areas are off-limits for mountaintop removal mining, in which coal companies blow the tops off mountains to access seams of coal and dump the debris into nearby valleys and streams.

It’s a huge victory for the state and for the conservation advocacy groups that have fought for years to see the petition granted. It is also a victory for the residents of these counties whose water will be protected from the pollution caused by surface mining and for the wildlife in this area, including many endangered and threatened species whose habitat is now protected.

The decision makes limited exceptions for environmentally beneficial re-mining, such as removing dangerous features from abandoned mine sites, and it does not extend to existing permits nor prohibit underground mining in this area. Still, it is without a doubt a big win!

But the fight isn’t over. Many mountain ridges, including in East Tennessee, are still vulnerable to the destructive practice of mountaintop coal removal mining.

Tonight — Tuesday, Dec. 20 — in Knoxville, Tenn., there will be a public hearing about a 1,500-acre proposed mountaintop removal surface mine in Claiborne County. The proposed Cooper Ridge mine (which is not inside the newly protected area) would negatively impact Valley Creek, Hurricane Creek and other mountain streans.

Coker, who is a member of Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment (SOCM) and has been involved in citizen water monitoring efforts for more than a year, plans to attend the hearing.

“The land needs someone to protect it, and I feel like it is the citizen’s right to do that. Because if we don’t protect the land, we’re not going to have any sustainability available for future generations, or for ourselves in the future for that matter,” he said.

If you want to attend the hearing in Knoxville, click here for details and directions.

If you are unable to attend the hearing but would like to submit comments, please send them to:

TDEC
Mining Section, Knoxville EFO
3711 Middlebrook Pike
Knoxville, TN 37921-6538
or email comments to:
Gary.Mullins@tn.gov

When making written comments please reference the mine name and permit numbers:
Cooper Ridge Surface Mine Phase I NPDES Permit TN0069736 (Draft) SMCRA Permit No. 3270 (Pending)

The comment period ends on December 31.

Devastating Forest Fires Ignite Southeast

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016 - posted by Elizabeth E. Payne

By Tristin Van Ord

The Party Rock Fire rages near Lake Lure, N.C., in November.  Photo by John Cayton

The Party Rock Fire rages near Lake Lure, N.C., in November. Photo by John Cayton

Numerous forest fires continue to burn across Southern and Central Appalachia due to dry weather conditions. According to USA Today, over 119,000 acres of forest have already burned throughout the region this fall.

Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia have all been affected.

At least 300 homes and business were damaged or destroyed after wildfires tore through the city of Gatlinburg and Sevier County, Tenn., on Nov. 28. Fourteen people lost their lives in the blaze and its aftermath.

The Southeast is currently experiencing a “once in a generation drought,” according to PBS News. While drought has increased the spread and intensity of the fires, arson is to blame for many of them. The Associated Press announced that multiple people were arrested for intentionally starting fires. A Kentucky resident was arrested after he started a wildfire to gain popularity on his Facebook page through a forest fire video.

Over 200 homes in the Nantahala National Forest in Western North Carolina were evacuated, and N.C. Governor Pat McCrory issued a state of emergency in 25 counties.

Smoke from the fires is also a public health hazard. According to the Weather Channel, at least two people in Kentucky died from respiratory complications due to the fires, while hundreds have been hospitalized.

Thousands of volunteers are working to stop the spread of the fires, including firefighters from across the country.

Citizens should check to see if their county is under an open burning ban. The North Carolina Forest Service advises keeping a shovel and water at hand if burning outside is necessary.

Editor’s note: The print version of this article stated that seven lives were lost in the Gatlinburg fire at press time. That figure has been updated in this version.

America’s miners deserve better than this; time to do your part

Thursday, December 8th, 2016 - posted by thom
Time is quickly running out for Congress to pass the Miners Protection Act. Photo by Ann Smith, special to the UMW Journal

Time is quickly running out for Congress to pass the Miners Protection Act. Photo by Ann Smith, special to the UMW Journal

America owes a debt to the nation’s coal miners. Not just a debt of gratitude, but a financial debt as well.

The good news is that there is a bill in Congress that would allow this country to begin to pay that debt: the Miners Protection Act. The bad news is that the opportunity to pass the bill is quickly slipping away.

The Miners Protection Act would provide retired members of the United Mine Workers of America the pensions they’ve been promised and the health benefits many of them and their families desperately need. There is broad bipartisan support for the bill — the Senate Finance Committee passed the Miners Protection Act earlier this year by a whopping 18 to 8 margin.

But Congress is on the verge of passing a budget that would leave out pensions altogether, and only provide a band-aid solution for the health benefits. As UMWA president Cecil Roberts explains:

The inclusion of a mere four months of spending on health care benefits for retired miners and widows is a slap in the face to all 22,000 of them who desperately need their health care next month, next year and for the rest of their lives.

Further, the complete exclusion of any language to provide help for the pensions of 120,000 current and future retirees puts America’s coalfield communities on a glide path to deeper economic disaster.
The miners are calling on “any and all allies” to join them in fighting for the pensions and health benefits they have earned. We hope you will join us in becoming one of those allies.

Please call your senator today and tell them that you support the Miners Protection Act, and that they need to pass it before Congress goes on recess. Tell them it is the right thing to do, and going home without doing it is totally unacceptable.

North Carolina – Richard Burr (202) 224-3154
Note: Sen. Burr is a cosponsor of the bill. We need him to show his support by insisting the entire bill passes before he goes home.

Kentucky – Mitch McConnell (202) 224-2541 Note: He is failing the miners by not working to secure their pensions. He needs to support the entire bill and bring it up for a vote before he goes home.

West Virginia – Shelley Capito (202) 224-6472 Note: Sen. Capito is a cosponsor of the bill. She needs to keep fighting, and do everything she can to get this entire bill passed before she goes home.

Tennessee – Bob Corker (202) 224-3344 Note: Sen. Corker needs to show support for the miners. It’s the right thing to do, and he should help get the entire bill passed before he goes home.

Virginia – Tim Kaine (202) 224-4024 Note: Sen. Kaine is a cosponsor of the bill. He needs to do everything he can to make sure the miners get their pensions before he goes home.

Rest of the country – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (202) 224-2541 Note: He is failing the miners by not working to secure their pensions. He needs to support the entire bill and bring it up for a vote before he goes home.

O’ TVA where art thou?

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016 - posted by Amy Kelly

This is a joint blog between Appalachian Voices and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. It is also the first in a series SACE will publish on recent energy efficiency meetings between TVA and community members all across the Tennessee Valley.

Rural community members ask TVA for energy efficiency programs

Photo by Lou Murrey, with Appalachian Voices

Photo by Lou Murrey, with Appalachian Voices

In the rural reaches of the Tennessee Valley, where farmland bends and dips between hills and rivers, the Tennessee Valley Authority promised in the 1930s to bring a modern era of electricity and jobs. Indeed, the New Deal federal program improved Appalachian and rural life in many ways, making good on those promises.

But it also came with some lasting side effects. With hydro-electricity and dam creation, more than 15,000 families had to move, farms were lost and geographic divisions between families and communities were created. Coal towns boomed and busted, leaving behind strip-mined mountains and stagnant local economies. Here in the rural places that time seems to have forgotten, the local residents have a keen memory for their past.

“History says TVA was there for the public good. If you ask folks now, they would say ‘used to be,’” said Bill McCabe, a resident of Hancock County, Tennessee — which has the second-highest poverty rate in the state.

These days, unaffordable electric bills are having a major impact on countless lives across the Valley. With the arrival of reliable electric service came financial uncertainty for many struggling families, as paying to keep older homes warm or cool that were never designed with energy efficiency in mind has resulted in sky-high and unpredictable power bills in summer and winter months.

Recently, McCabe and a group of other residents joined together around a table with TVA representatives to share their stories and offer suggestions for energy efficiency programs. Thankfully, TVA is currently engaged in discussions through its Energy Efficiency Information Exchange stakeholder planning group about developing new energy efficiency solutions for low-income families. To make sure local communities have a voice in the planning efforts, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy worked with TVA and local partners to help convene five local stakeholder groups across the Valley this month. Appalachian Voices led in organizing the first of these meetings in Claiborne County, Tennessee, on August 12.

The meeting was particularly important because it was the only local stakeholder meeting held in a rural area, and community members who came shared their stories with TVA from a distinctly rural perspective. Their experiences shed light on the unique challenges faced by rural residents and help inform potential new programs that could help reduce energy burdens. As with so many other things in rural Appalachia, there was a general feeling of the community being left behind when it comes to energy efficiency.

Unfortunately, those most in need of help are typically unable to access the home energy efficiency rebate program that TVA now offers, a shortcoming that TVA staff have acknowledged. Currently, customers who want to participate in TVA’s eScore program must first pay for an energy audit and the upfront cost of upgrades, often thousands of dollars. While there are some financing options available, they generally require high credit scores and home ownership.

One solution discussed at the meeting is tariff-based on-bill financing, which doesn’t require credit checks and allows for immediate bill reductions even with a monthly repayment charge added on a bill. Several electric cooperatives in Tennessee are currently considering developing on-bill financing programs, and similar programs have been highly successful in neighboring states such as How$mart Kentucky and Help My House in South Carolina.

Like some at the meeting with TVA, many rural families across the Valley live in older manufactured homes. Often, these homes have little or no insulation, leaky doors and windows, and inefficient space heaters and window air conditioners. And while many have gone to extreme cost-saving measures – a commonly cited practice is to huddle the whole family in one room for heat – families still end up with utility bills costing hundreds of dollars in winter and summer months. That’s a lot of money for most people in Claiborne County, which has a poverty rate of nearly 25%.

Not only are inefficient homes an unnecessary drain on precious financial resources, they are also a serious public health and safety issue. For some meeting participants, respiratory and other illnesses mean that poor indoor air quality and extreme temperatures become a major health risk. For one resident, a broken HVAC unit, which she couldn’t afford to replace, left her husband hospitalized for four days with heat exhaustion. Another resident has to leave her manufactured home during the middle of the day in the summer so her young children won’t get overheated – yet her electric bills are so high she struggles to buy diapers. Some also reported resorting to potentially unsafe methods to heat their homes in the winter, such as using stoves and clothes dryers.

This is an urgent problem that TVA can and should take the lead to solve. In addition to alleviating families’ unaffordable energy bills and potentially unsafe living conditions, new home weatherization programs would bring numerous good-paying jobs to places where they are desperately needed, helping to fulfill TVA’s mission to promote economic development.

As TVA continues working with stakeholders toward new low-income energy efficiency initiatives, it should take care to incorporate the invaluable input from the local communities that are most affected by its decisions. We thank TVA for meeting with these local community members, and we hope that the discussion will help to inform the development of meaningful energy efficiency solutions to serve the entire Tennessee Valley.

At the end of the August 12 meeting, participants were invited to write down their top recommendations for TVA on Post It notes. Here are some of the policy recommendations provided by the meeting participants for TVA to consider:

“Incentives for electric companies to do weatherization programs, pay true value of energy efficiency.”

“Support extreme makeovers for rural homes, send message to distributors to invest in energy efficiency programs, provide funding for LED bulb give away.”

“Implement a community-based committee to set up a program to begin inspection on housing to first find the need within the community. Examine the cost of what it will take to implement this program and then base the cost on the most need.”

“Make the bill the same each month. Make more jobs for the people here in my area. See a need for the people and spend money here on this area. Help companies to move here with jobs.”

“I like the pay-as-you-save project that has been piloted in other states (like Arkansas) where these old houses have been behind the curve, power companies could see long-term benefits in investment. Not just in energy savings but local economies expanding (and new houses, new customers).”

“I think everyone coming together to help as a community and the weatherization program would bring in so much help to a lot of us need, especially low-income families and people living in older homes with large families. God Bless.”

Do-It-Yourself tips for energy efficiency: Heating & Cooling

Friday, August 26th, 2016 - posted by interns

By Adam Sheffield, Appalachian Voices Video and Outreach Assistant

Our new video series offers a variety of easy energy efficiency tips to lower electric bills while reducing energy waste.

energysavings

When it comes to the weather in Appalachia, we’ve got it all. We have bitter cold winters, soaking wet springs, hot humid summers and chilly autumns. Each of the four seasons comes with gifts as well as a set of energy challenges.

Further south, folks face the challenge of cooling the air in their homes, battling humidity and hot temperatures. For people to the north, heating their homes in the winter is the main goal. But here in Appalachia, our mountain climate has characteristics that require our homes to deal with both heat and cold.

Many mountain homes don’t have air conditioning units due to Appalachia’s milder summers, although some newer homes are being built with AC while others install window units. In the winter, it’s difficult to survive the season here without a good heating source. Heating methods vary from home to home, from wood-burning stoves, to propane furnaces, kerosene monitors, or electric baseboard heaters, to central HVAC units.

Regardless of the type of heating system, winter heating costs are a financial burden for many families. Some systems are more expensive than others, and older systems are more costly to use than newer, more energy-efficient models. The point is that we all want to be comfortable during the cold winter months, but we also want to save on our energy costs.

Appalachian Voices’ Energy Savings for Appalachia promotes programs that help Appalachian residents lower their energy costs. Our goal is to create a widespread network of support for energy efficiency financing programs through the rural electric cooperatives. We’re working in western North Carolina and East Tennessee, but we are part of a larger regional and national movement to expand access to affordable home energy efficiency financing for residents of all income levels. Education is a key part of our work to help residents lower their energy costs, so we’ve created a set of short Do-It-Yourself videos.

This short video features John Kidda, founder and president of reNew Homes, Inc., in Boone, N.C. In the video, John discusses using programmable thermostats as a way to save on heating and cooling, and the benefits of using one in an Appalachian home. John points out that lower temperature settings — and lower energy use — during the colder winter season are easier to achieve when the home is properly insulated and air leakage is minimized.

Programmable thermostats allow residents to set the temperature in their home to operate around a schedule. There’s no need to leave the air conditioner or heat running while you’re away at work or school all day. The same goes for winter settings and for the nighttime when you’re asleep. Why run the heat on high when you don’t need to? Program your thermostat to turn the heat on right before your normal wakeup time. Then, set the thermostat to a lower temperature while you’re away from home or headed to bed. Some thermostats can even be adjusted from a mobile device.

Prices range from as low as $50 to over $300. Many programmable thermostats now include instant rebates. By switching to a programmable thermostat, you can lower your energy cost by 10 percent in the first year.

Watch our heating and cooling video and let us know what you think! We will be releasing additional videos in the coming months. If you are interested in learning more, contact me at (828) 262-1500, or by email at adam.sheffield@appvoices.org.

Energy bill acrobatics

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016 - posted by Lou Murrey

Balancing the Family Budget with High Electric Bills

Click the arrows to scroll through the slide show. The Schmidts of Tazewell, Tenn. have to keep their home carefully temperature controlled for the health of their son, C.J., who has Down syndrome.

For the Schmidt family of Tazewell, Tennessee, managing their budget is a delicate balancing act, and one they have become very good at. But high electric bills can make that balance tricky to maintain, sometimes leaving very little in the way of emergency funds, much less for the home repairs they need that could actually lower their energy use.

Liana Schmidt says her electric bills can reach up to $300 in the winter, and fluctuate between $100 and $200 the rest of the year. For Liana, a full-time dietary technician at the Claiborne Medical Center, and her husband Carl, having to pay those bills on such a tight budget can be hard.

“I have kids,” she says. “It’s hard to do and get things for them ‘cause I have to worry about my bills first. You know? Like clothes… or you know things that they need or whatnot. That’s the hardest part.”

The tension between getting by and financial emergency became that much tighter last month when the transmission in her car went out and the brand new well pump in their home broke again. “I have four kids; two of them live with me, and he has Down syndrome,” says Liana nodding her head at 8-year-old C.J. who has abandoned a puzzle to play with a plastic fire truck on the floor of their sunlit kitchen. He is the light of her life, she says, adding quickly that she loves all her children, but a hug from C.J. when she walks in the door can turn her entire day around.

C.J. is susceptible to infection, so regulating temperature in their home is a matter of keeping her son healthy. “I have to make sure that he doesn’t get overheated or too cold or whatever the case may be ‘cause he can get sick very quickly and he is allergic to just about everything. So it’s a struggle.” Just in the last year, C.J. has been hospitalized twice for pneumonia.

When every bit of money saved counts, medical expenses, even with insurance, can add up. Liana’s husband Carl served in the Navy for 20 years, and was exposed to asbestos sometime in the 1980s, which has significantly impacted his health and makes it difficult for him to work full-time. All this has been made much more difficult since the Schmidts were informed in July by their insurance that all of their doctors and their hospital are now out-of-network. They will have to drive almost an hour to receive medical care.

The Schmidts could benefit tremendously from having a more energy-efficient home, to save money on their electric bill and to ensure healthy conditions for C.J. But having the time and money to make the initial investment seems impossible. “If I could just save a little more, just replacing my windows would be a huge huge deal… that would be awesome,” says Liana.

Liana and Carl have done some energy efficiency improvements in their 23-year old house, like replacing all the lightbulbs with compact fluorescents and hanging heavy light-blocking curtains in the living room. “We’ve been trying to do little things here and there,” says Liana. “Even our dishwasher is eco-friendly and our refrigerator is, just about everything that we have is energy efficient. I don’t have a dryer because I like to hang my clothes out and in the wintertime I have a rack so I put everything on a rack.”

Still, Liana knows that to really lower their electric bill, they are going to have to do some more significant upgrades. She points to her kitchen windows saying, “I would love to be able to change these windows but they’re a little expensive right now for us.” Moving over to the windows, Liana says “If you look, you actually can see it,” and pushes her hand against the window to reveal a sizeable gap between the pane and the frame.

Liana heads outside. It’s 92 degrees and the midday sun has no mercy, even the plants in her well-tended garden are drooping as if to say “too much!” It’s clear from the landscaping, which includes a small fruit orchard in the backyard, that the Schmidts put a good deal of time and energy into making their house feel like home.

“We own the land and the house. We have four acres,” says Liana. Gesturing to the wide open space and empty road surrounding their property, she laughs, “It’s awesome back here. My neighbors are cows.” Around the side of the house, she points to a spot close to the roof where some of the siding has come off, revealing a hole a little larger than a softball. It looks like an animal might have created it, but it’s hard to tell. Liana is smiling, but there is exasperation and worry behind her smile when she explains how her husband’s health keeps him from fixing it.

Liana continues to the back of the house, where she opens the door to the crawlspace It’s clear why the Schmidts can feel cold air coming through the floor in the wintertime. Insulation is hanging like pink curtains, rather than being packed tightly in between the joists. Homes can lose up to ten percent of their heating and cooling through uninsulated floors.

Back inside the cool respite of her house, Liana looks up from removing her shoes. “The two biggest things right now is my roof and my windows because I got shingles that are coming off my roof from the wind and whatnot.”

Rural Appalachia has a high concentration of aging and manufactured homes — like the Schmidts’ home — which often lack proper insulation, or their structures have settled allowing air to escape. The culmination of all these factors is that Carl and Liana aren’t the only ones facing high electric bills with little to no resources or access to upfront financing that might provide some relief.

Some utilities have a program called “on-bill financing” which offers people like the Schmidts financing to cover the upfront cost of energy efficiency upgrades and pay back the money on their monthly bill, using the savings. When asked what it would mean her family to have access to this kind of program, Liana replies, “What would it mean to me? It’d mean a whole lot! Having a Down’s kid, I could do a whole lot more with him. If I could save more money and with my older son, I’d be able to do stuff with him as well. Right now we can’t do a whole lot. That would save us so much more, our bill would definitely drop, and we would be able to do a whole lot more with our kids. Family means everything to us, at this point in time, family is everything. You just never know when your time is up.”

Visit our Energy Savings web page for information on how to start this conversation with your utility.

Murals Showcase Rare Species

Thursday, August 11th, 2016 - posted by interns

Knoxville endangered species mural. Photo by Roger Peet, courtesy of the Center for Biological Diversity

Knoxville endangered species mural. Photo by Roger Peet, courtesy of the Center for Biological Diversity

A 175-foot long wall in Knoxville, Tenn., was transformed into a mural promoting the protection of endangered native species from habitat destruction.It is the largest mural completed by the Center for Biological Diversity’s Endangered Species Mural Project and Oregon-based artist Roger Peet.

The Knoxville project features pink mucket pearly mussels along with other local endangered species such as Cumberlandian combshell, sheepnose and rabbitsfoot mussels and fish like the Citico darter and blotchside logperch.

The Center also completed a similar mural in Berea, Ky., featuring the white fringeless orchid, which is threatened by logging, development and climate change. Only growing in forested areas with wet soil, the orchid is already extirpated in North Carolina, but can be found in roughly 60 locations in Kentucky and surrounding states.

— Otto Solberg

Chattanooga Launches Solar-Electric Car-Sharing Program

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016 - posted by interns

An electric vehicle car-share program in Chattanooga, Tenn., launched this summer as part of a combined effort between the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority, Tennessee Valley Authority, Electric Power Board and the California-based company GreenCommuter.

The first phase of the project included building 20 solar-assisted charging stations around the city that can each charge multiple cars. The program will rely on a fleet of all-electric Nissan Leafs.

“Chattanoogans should be proud of this agreement because we are the first medium-size city in the nation to implement an electric vehicle car-sharing system to reduce emissions and traffic congestion,” Brent Matthews, CARTA director of parking, told WVTC.

— Otto Solberg

Tennessee Passes New Lead Notification Bill and other shorts

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016 - posted by interns

Tennessee Passes New Lead Notification Bill

In April, Tennessee’s governor passed Senate Bill 2450 requiring quicker notification of dangerous lead levels in public water. Under this law, public water systems must notify the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation within 24 hours and affected residents within 72 hours of discovering levels above the federal standard. The water utilities must also provide information regarding potential contamination sources, health effects and possible mitigation to the agency. The previous law allowed utilities to wait 60 days before notifying the public of lead contamination. — Hannah Petersen

Study Shows Nutrients Returning to Damaged S.C. Soil

An ongoing study by Dr. Dan Richter, a professor of Soils and Forest Ecology at Duke University, shows Piedmont soils are making a slow recovery from erosion and carbon damages caused by cotton production.

According to university news outlet DukeToday, the land in the Piedmont and in western South Carolina lost half a foot of topsoil to erosion due to cotton farming. This caused the soil’s organic carbon level, an indicator of soil health, to drop by almost half by the middle of the 20th century. Richter explains that forests have returned to the area and falling leaves and branches have begun to return nutrients to the soil. — Hannah Petersen

Virginia Greenway Receives Environmental Award

The Hawksbill Greenway in Luray, Va., was honored with a gold medal as a part of the Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards. The greenway consists of a two-mile walking and biking trail along the Hawksbill Creek.

A report from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality states that by providing citizens with fitness classes and protecting the creek from pollution using natural barriers, the greenway “encourages wellness and connectivity” throughout the community. — Savannah Clemmons

Environmental Education Center Opens in West Virginia

The National Park Service opened Camp Brookside Environmental Education Center in Brooks, W.Va., on May 21. Originally a children’s summer camp, Camp Brookside was renovated to house research and environmental education services. The center has seven cabins, a mess hall, field study tools and other amenities that can be found at nps.gov/neri. — Hannah Petersen

Online Water Mapping A Useful Tool for Citizens

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released an online resource where users can learn more about water sources and water quality. The Drinking Water Mapping Application to Protect Source Waters allows users to enter an address and see both the source of drinking water for that area as well as potential or existing sources of contamination. The tool is located at epa.gov/sourcewaterprotection/dwmaps. —Dylan Turner