State of the River: ‘It’s glorious but it’s in trouble’

State of the River: ‘It’s glorious but it’s in trouble’
Published: Jun. 1, 2022 at 5:21 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The Cape Fear River is one of the great natural features of southeastern North Carolina, but it faces a number of issues like PFAS and mercury contamination.

“It’s glorious but it’s in trouble,” said executive director Dana Sargent. “This river is the lifeblood for this community. It’s the drinking water supply. It’s an economic boom. It’s an ecological boom — but it’s in a lot of trouble.”

Hundreds of people gathered at the Cape Fear River Watch’s State of the River event Wednesday. Leaders discussed concerns about contamination and fish populations while educating the community on what can be done at home to help put an end to these problems.

The Cape Fear River Watch says they’re doing a number of things themselves. In terms of animal agriculture, members of the organization monitor waste management, conduct water sampling and report violations.

When it comes to PFAS, the organization has filed a lawsuit against the EPA to strengthen restrictions on pollution. They’re also keeping an eye on Chemours to make sure they’re doing what’s required moving forward.

Cape Fear River Watch believes state and federal leaders need to be doing more to force Chemours to step up and clean up the mess they’ve spilled into the river.

That pollutant has not only made its way into our drinking water but it could be on your dinner table, too. While many people enjoy fishing in the Cape Fear, leaders used the event as an opportunity to warn them about the risks.

“There’s contamination — not only PFAS, but mercury is in fish if one is not careful, which has disastrous side effects,” said Deborah Dicks Maxwell, president of the NC NAACP. “When you fish, you stop and you check about the fish. See if that’s on a good list or bad list of types to use.”

Cape Fear River Watch says educating the public about these issues is key as it takes people throughout the region to help create change.

“Walk outside your house and clean up some litter,” said Sargent. “When you’re taking a walk, pick up the litter. It goes into the storm drain, runs into the river, ends up in the ocean eventually. Just, you know, do a little clean-up.”

That’s not all Cape Fear River Watch asks that people do. They hope those that care about the region’s water source pick up the phones and call legislators to ask them to do more to help.

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