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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

Water Fowl or Foul Water? Sewage Spills Contaminate Local Waters

Nov 08, 2008 04:24PM
Bald eagles, great blue herons, mallards and many other wildlife species of the Catawba River rely on local streams and creeks for food and shelter. Though beautiful from above, what lurks beneath the surface of these important waters?

Disturbingly, on average, more than 1,000 gallons a day of raw sewage entered a stream or creek in Mecklenburg County between July 2007 and June 2008. During this time, 378,973 gallons of raw sewage leaked or overflowed from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities’ pipes into the waters of our community. Since June, an additional 31 sewage spills have released 86,977 gallons of raw sewage into the Catawba River basin.

Although we rarely see them, nearly 4,000 miles of pipe beneath our feet distributes water daily. Too frequently, these pipes leak or burst releasing raw sewage into the streams and creeks that flow through our community. For many, the greenways along these waters provide places of solitude, reflection and recreation. We do not want these areas to be places of foul smells and bacterial-infested waters from leaky sewage pipes.

The Catawba Riverkeeper is an organization that is focused on water quality monitoring, responding to reports of pollution events and forming a solid corps of trained volunteer advocates. They investigate reports of pollution events through on-site inspections and water quality testing and notify the appropriate authorities when there are violations. 

The Keeper team follows up with local, state and federal agencies to ensure that appropriate steps are taken to mitigate pollution damage. When necessary action is not taken, the Catawba Riverkeeper and a network of more than 150 volunteers pressure authorities to act decisively by garnering public support and, if necessary, by taking legal action.

For the health and vitality of our community, we must work together to make sure our waters are protected from leaky sewage pipes. By working through the media to educate the public, fielding individual calls to a toll-free hotline and working with regulatory agencies to ensure public safety, The Catawba Riverkeeper plays a vital role in keeping local waters safe for humans and wildlife.

For more information or to help protect our waters, visit or contact David Merryman, Catawba Riverkeeper, at 704-679-9494.

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