Today, we released a new report, “The Stealthy Takeover of NC Drinking Water: A Snapshot of Corporate Privatization,” presenting a geographical snapshot of small, privately-owned drinking water systems which are common sources of household drinking water, typically drawing groundwater from one or more wells.
Many North Carolinians don’t realize that their neighbors pay for water service from a private, for-profit company such as Aqua North Carolina or Utilities, Inc. These companies are quietly buying up aging drinking water systems, or making deals with developers to own and operate new systems. Both companies serve thousands of customers in rural areas, and in suburban areas outside cities like Raleigh, Charlotte, and Winston-Salem.
The 10-page report includes detailed maps of the drinking water systems owned by Aqua North Carolina and Utilities Inc., the two largest private water corporations operating in NC. Additional maps display the number of people served by each water system, data on water quality and reporting violations, and the demographics of the surrounding neighborhoods.
Did you know that:
- Many corporate-owned systems haven’t consistently complied with water quality standards, despite charging high customer rates. Even for systems without recent violations, there are often water quality problems: small systems are not required to monitor as frequently as larger ones, so violations can slip through the cracks.
- Iron and manganese, common naturally-occurring groundwater contaminants, are not considered direct public health threats and do not have federally enforceable drinking water standards.
- Among the NC neighborhoods served by for-profit water utilities, low-income, minority, and rural communities are particularly vulnerable to steep rate hikes and poor service.
As an environmental justice organization, Clean Water for NC is particularly concerned that in some counties, such as Cumberland County, minority residents and households that are below the poverty level are experiencing the worst water quality violations; they are also much more vulnerable to high private water rates and future rate increases. NC residents should not be paying more than they can afford for water they can’t even drink.
Though these maps of the stealthy spread of corporate privatization may be alarming, there is still time for NC lawmakers, the NC Utilities Commission, and local public officials to capture the consumer and regulatory benefits of promoting consolidation of hundreds of independent systems under public ownership, as Alabama has done, and to facilitate publicly owned utilities’ purchase of small systems within or near their existing service areas.
A full set of maps by county for each utility company is available on request; please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to read the report.
Red dots represent water systems owned by Aqua NC; blue dots are water systems owned by Utilities Inc.
Today, we released a report entitled Natural Gas Pipelines: Regulation and Risk for North Carolina. The natural gas pipeline system is all around us, connecting our homes, businesses, and increasingly, our power supply, to the production, processing and transportation side of the industry. But people frequently don’t understand the risks associated with the natural gas pipeline system, or what to do if a pipeline company wants to put one through your land. The report is aimed at de-mystifying the pipeline system, its regulation and opportunities for involvement by potentially impacted residents and the general public.
In the case of the newly proposed Dominion Atlantic Coast Pipeline, residents and affected landowners should participate in the process to the full extent possible. The report outlines steps along the way the public can take. Companies must be held responsible for protection of the public they are serving; so all regulatory, construction and route-selection processes must be transparent and include the public from the start. Belinda Joyner, Clean Water for NC’s Northeastern Organizer, based in Garysburg, near the proposed pipeline, attended one of Dominion’s “open house” sessions this week. “The Dominion staff were so eager to be reassuring about pipeline safety, compressor stations and other impacts, that it’s clear the public will need to keep digging to get forthright answers. We’ll make sure the word gets out widely before the next set of public meetings early in 2015.”
A main conclusion in the report is that during the construction of new facilities and infrastructure for natural gas, detailed environmental assessments and public input must be included in the process, in order to reduce or avoid environmental and community impacts, and increase safety through public awareness of the presence of pipelines. Where service areas have been established by a long-standing “certificates of convenience and necessity,” gas companies must be required to file plans for pipeline construction with state Utility Commission officials and notify all parties and local governments potentially impacted.
Map of Natural Gas Pipelines in the US. Source: Energy Information Administration
Some key facts from the report:
– Transco is the major interstate pipeline passing through North Carolina. Though Transco currently runs south to north, it is expected to reverse flow direction in December 2015 and move gas from the Marcellus shale to supply the South.
– Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural gas announced they selected Dominion Resources to design and build a new interstate pipeline to supply NC. Dominion expects to finalize the “Atlantic Coast” pipeline route by summer of 2015, and it will take an estimated 2 years to build the pipeline. Negotiations with landowners to finalize the route could take years, but companies can seize land through eminent domain.
-With the possibility of the fracking industry coming to North Carolina, there would be a need to construct new gathering pipelines to transmit gas from drilling wells to processing plants.
You can read the report here:
Comment on these rules directly to the MEC, at one of the upcoming Public Hearings on Fracking Rules. More info here.
Sanford: Aug. 22, Rockingham Co.: Aug. 25, Cullowhee/Western NC: Sept 12
After a well is “fracked,” millions of gallons of water come back to the surface, contaminated with chemicals added to frack fluids, as well as naturally occurring contaminants like salts, radioactive materials, and metals.
Birds and other wildlife can be attracted to standing water in open pits of toxic fracking wastewater.
The draft rules allow storage of this toxic wastewater in open pits, which release toxic air pollutants, are prone to flooding, can leak to surface or groundwater, and present a hazard to wildlife! The state should follow the lead of other states that require storage of waste in enclosed tanks, not open pits. The draft rules only require waste to be stored in tanks after a pit fails, leaking to nearby soil and groundwater – an approach that does the opposite of protecting the nearby environment!
What will we do with wastewater once it’s moved off site? Your local wastewater treatment plant is not equipped to handle this soup of chemicals, nor are there specialized facilities here to handle it. We don’t even have water quality standards for the many fracking pollutants that could soon be discharged into NC lakes and streams! The final rules should force driller to identify a disposal facility that is already up and running reliably before any fracking begins. NC’s rivers, streams, farmland and groundwater are too precious to become irreversibly contaminated with fracking wastewater. Click here for a factsheet on the rules on “Exploration and Production Waste Management.”
All this fracking water has to come from somewhere. Withdrawing huge volumes of freshwater strains local water supplies. The population of North Carolina’s piedmont between Raleigh and Charlotte is large and increasing more quickly than any other part of the state, yet this is also where most shale gas drilling is likely to occur. We need stricter restrictions on the oil and gas industry to make sure plentiful clean water is available to our growing population for drinking, farming, and many other uses at businesses and homes.
The draft rules would let gas companies withdraw nearly unlimited amounts of freshwater, just requiring them to report where it’s coming from and monitor daily usage. Withdrawals would only be prohibited in extreme dry spells, but by that time others might already be affected! Because fracking operations could have a cumulative effect, the rules should also require records of total water withdrawals at multiple locations across local areas, so communities can plan for the collective impacts on water quantity. Click here for a factsheet on the “Water Acquisition and Management” section of the rules.