Eight American Indian tribes inhabit North Carolina; the Lumbee, Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation, HaliwaSaponi, Coharie, Waccamaw-Siouan, Occaneechi, Meherrin and Sappony. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Fracking are two major impending environmental concerns for those communities. American Indians make up 1.2% of the total North Carolina population which creates a lack of representation when dealing with these concerns. Low income communities are usually targeted by large entities such as Duke Energy, and since the majority of these tribes are located in rural counties, that makes them a prime target.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation is the only federally recognized tribe; that means that they have their own reservation and are considered their own sovereign nation. They can also decide what businesses are allowed to operate on their lands.
The following are environmental injustices impacting each tribal affiliation:
Image adapted from the NC Commission of Indian Affairs
- Coharie: Fracking, Atlantic Coast Pipeline, large hog operations in Sampson County.
- Eastern Band Cherokee: Possibility for Fracking.
- Haliwa- Saponi: Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
- Lumbee: Fracking, Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Coal Ash, river contamination in Red Springs.
- Meherrin: Enviva wood pellet industry and deforestation.
- Occaneechi-Saponi: Petroleum contamination in private wells.
- Waccamaw-Siouan: Possibility for Fracking.
Ericka Faircloth is Clean Water for NC’s new Water & Energy Justice Organizer. Ericka will be attending the conference of the United Tribes of North Carolina this week. The United Tribes of North Carolina is a nonprofit corporation established in 1982 to provide greater coordination and unity among the Indian tribes and organizations of the state, to promote educational, economic, religious, charitable and cultural activities for Indian people, and to increase and to increase economic prosperity for Indians of North Carolina. Click here for the conference agenda.
We often talk about the impacts of drinking water privatization in North Carolina, but did you know that out of state for-profit corporations are also buying up small sewage treatment plants? Utilities Inc. and its subsidiaries have over 19,000 sewer customers in 19 NC counties, and Aqua NC has 12,000 sewer customers in 19 counties. Apart from these two “giants,” there are 70 more private companies operating sewage systems in the state.
Small sewage treatment plants (such as this one owned and operated by Utilities Inc) are more widespread than you might think!
Small, pre-engineered sewage treatment plants have cropped up where environmental conditions don’t support septic systems and municipal service hasn’t kept up with rapid rural and suburban development. Aqua NC and Utilities Inc. have purchased many of the now-aging plants, promising capital investments and upgrades, and hiking up customer rates sharply (Aqua sewer customers pay a flat monthly fee of $65.21). Private companies are also in the business of installing new plants, enabling developers to build where existing sewer infrastructure doesn’t exist, a profitable deal for both parties.
Yet investigations show that Aqua NC has the fourth-highest number of water quality violations in the state from its 60 sewage treatment plants. Our own research indicates that 78% of Aqua NC’s wastewater facilities and 71% of Utilities Inc.’s wastewater facilities have been in violation of standards at least once in the last three years, and yet monetary fines for all polluters have decreased sharply since the legislature passed a sweeping regulatory reform bill (S781) in 2011.
Private companies may attempt to increase profit margins by skimping on maintenance and personnel, leading to preventable spills and overflows. In Tega Cay, South Carolina, just south of Charlotte, sewage spills stopped almost immediately after the town bought problematic sewage systems from Utilities Inc., by prioritizing regular maintenance and repairs the company had neglected. Sewer customers of Aqua NC and Utilities Inc. pay some of the highest prices in the state, many times without the benefits of proper upkeep and repairs to their neighborhood sewage plants.
For more information on the empty promises of privatized sewer service in NC, stay tuned for the upcoming publication of a new CWFNC report by 2014 summer intern Chandler Keenan!
Mobile homes make up about 14% of all occupied homes in NC, and residents tend to be in lower income brackets.
If you live in the Triangle area, you may have seen the news that this week, residents of a Carrboro apartment complex organized a protest
because of high water bills! This highlights an often untalked-about injustice affecting many neighborhoods across the state
In North Carolina, the many people who live in apartment complexes and mobile home parks can fall victim to high water bills charged by landlords or even corporate water providers. Fourteen percent of occupied homes in NC are mobile homes, and more than 870,000 North Carolinians (almost 10% of the state’s population) live in apartments. Residents of both housing types tend to fall into lower income brackets, so they may be particularly vulnerable to high utility bills.
In these “multifamily developments,” the cost of water has normally been included as part of rent, but since a state law changed in 2004, landlords that purchase water from a nearby water supplier (such as a municipal system) have been shifting to sub-meter each household and charge residents a separate water bill. More…
Asheville and Buncombe County residents stand up for local decisions about the drinking water system
During the last two legislative sessions, North Carolina lawmakers showed an unusual interest in interfering with local government affairs. Among other things, they tried to take away Charlotte’s authority
over their own airport, Asheville’s authority
over their own water system, and forced Durham to extend water and sewer lines
to a private development that was outside of the city’s master plan for growth.
Legislation has also been introduced – and some of it passed – that further limits the ability for local governments to raise revenue, and attempts to prevent municipalities from placing restrictions on what developments look like and which trees a local government could require developers to preserve. The drivers of these legislative moves were Representatives who typically stress the need for local control, so this sudden shift of the state legislature undermining local authority has been surprising. Needless to say, these forays into municipal affairs by the state have made local government elected officials and professionals very wary, wondering “When will it be our turn?” Well, it looks like Greensboro need wonder no longer. State Senator Trudy Wade has introduced legislation that would dramatically alter the composition of Greensboro’s city council – reducing the number of total members, eliminating three at-large members, and severely restricting the mayor’s right to vote.
Why should we be worried about this trend? We know that some of these efforts are being pushed by a new offshoot of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council). ALEC pushed much of the state-level legislation that has proven to be so harmful to North Carolina’s environment, health, education and voting rights since 2010. In 2014, ALEC formed a new group that will focus on city and county policy. According to Bloomberg News, “The American City County Exchange…will push policies such as contracting with companies to provide services such as garbage pick-up and eliminating collective bargaining, a municipal echo of the parent group’s state strategies.”
If the results of ALEC’s work at the state level are any indication, we can expect that policies favored by the American City County Exchange will increase corporate power, make it more difficult for towns and counties to keep utility rates affordable for everyone, and weaken the ability of people at the local level to have a say in the type of community they wish to live in. For more info on the ACCE, click here.