Those of you that drove down I-40 at the Tennessee/North Carolina border in the pre-1990’s remember not only the nasty smell of the ‘Dirty Bird’ but also the dark-stained water due to discharges from the Champion papermill in Canton, NC. Many of you know that over the last 30 years, water quality in the Pigeon River has steadily improved as a result of improvements at the papermill now owned by Blue Ridge Paper Products. Most of the improvements were in reaction to regulations imposed by the US EPA and the North Carolina Division of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) for the papermill’s NPDES permit. The NCEQ recently posted Blue Ridge’s proposed discharge permit which is up for renewal and a notice of a public meeting to be held in April and a request for written comments. The water quality requirements contained in the current permit are a big reason that the Pigeon River now supports a moderately healthy biological community and is a popular whitewater rafting and kayaking destination. On first read, the proposed permit, which will be effective for the next 10 years, appears to be generally the same as the previous permit.
We will be looking more closely at the proposed permit in the coming weeks, and we encourage TCWP members with an interest to check out the NCDEQ’s website for more information and an address for submitting comments: https://deq.nc.gov/news/events/notice-intent-issue-npdes-wastewater-discharge-permit-nc0000272-proposed-removal-color
submitted by Mark Bevelhimer