Sunday, August 14, 2016

The People of North Carolina Deserve Better

Photo of an organic farm belonging to the Robersons in Chatham a few years ago.  Wonderful produce, but hard work!

This is a letter I wrote in protest of Tom Reeder's article in our local paper Chatham News/Record, that appeared August 4.  My response was printed in the paper August 11. (See Below) Something is terribly wrong with our state government.  Judy Hogan
Trust is the Key

I’m responding to an article in the Chatham News/Record on August 4, by Tom Reeder, the Assistant Secretary for the Environment at the N.C. Dept of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Mr. Reeder tells us that Governor McCrory’s administration has “become a national leader addressing the threat of coal ash.” This opens the question of whether the citizens of N.C. trust Mr. Reeder, the McCrory Administration, the DEQ, and the N.C. General Assembly.  The people I talk to don’t.

The Dan River spill of many tons of coal ash happened early in McCrory’s administration.  Nobody was focused on the toxicity of coal ash before then.  True, the Coal Ash Management Commission (CAMA) was set up, but McCrory took the NC General Assembly to law to get rid of it, and it never operated.  The coal ash dumps that suddenly in late 2014 were planned by Duke Energy for Chatham (Moncure) and Lee (Colon Rd) had no help from CAMA, and the permits went through in record time for Charah to begin moving ash by truck and later by train, in October 2015.  No serious environmental justice study was done by the state or around the fourteen sites where unlined coal ash ponds are leaking into our rivers where millions of people get their drinking water.  Chatham Citizens Against Coal Ash Dump (CCACAD) and Environmental Lee began a court challenge of the permits, which is ongoing.

Then this year we learned of the secret meeting in June 2015 of Duke Energy’s CEO, Lynn Good, McCrory, and Van der Vaart, Secretary of DEQ, all with lawyers.  Shortly thereafter Duke Energy’s fine of $100,000,000 for the Dan River spill was suddenly reduced to $7 million, and two of the needed permits were released to Charah.  Meantime coal ash toxins (cancer-causing Hexavalent Chromium and Vanadium) had been found in people’s wells living close to the coal ash ponds, and the state Health Dept. scientists notified 350 families not to drink their well water or use it for cooking.  Apparently Duke didn’t like this.  They did begin providing bottled water to those families, but they have been recently claiming that there’s no proof the coal ash toxins came from the coal ash ponds.  Dr. Avner Vengosh of the Duke Nicholas School of the Environment has proved the toxins have leaked into the groundwater near the wells.  Next step is proving they reach the wells.

Meantime Dr. Ken Rudo, the highly reputable state toxicologist, refused to sign the second batch of letters going out from the state Health Dept, to tell people it was okay to drink their well water. EPA hadn’t yet set a standard though all the health agencies consulted agreed with Rudo that above .07 ppb (parts per billion) posed a health risk.  The new letter stated that 100 ppb was safe.  Did those folks who received these second letters believe them? Dr. Rudo was quiet for awhile, as Tom Reeder and a Mr. Williams pushed drinking this toxic water. The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) recently took a deposition from Dr. Rudo, and he told the court under oath that even when the governor and his staff pressured him to sign the “do drink” letters, he refused.  Would you trust Tom Reeder, McCrory, Van de Vaart, or Duke Energy?

Tom Reeder tries to flip the blame off McCrory who, he says, will be “holding Duke accountable for years of mismanagement.”   He says the new 640 law recently passed by the General Assembly will save Duke Energy customers money because the cost of fully excavating all those leaking ponds would have been passed along to customers.  He’s defending the now legal solution of “capping in place” these ponds, which won’t stop their leaking into the rivers. The 630 law says Duke must run water lines to the homes of the “Do drink” letter recipients, but none of them want to keep living on toxic land.  This is quite a tricky game the McCrory administration is playing   The bottom line is that Duke’s carelessness created the problem, and Duke should clean it up and not pass the buck to its customers or dump it on other communities. Then our governor tells the media that Dr. Rudo was lying.  Whom do you believe?  Whom do you trust?  Me, I take Tom Reeder’s words with a boxful of salt.

Judy Hogan, PO Box 253, Moncure, NC 27559.  judyhogan at

Two links to check out:


Judy's desk a few years ago.  No cosmos this year, but zinnias rising, and lots of lantana and sunflowers.

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