It’s What You Eat

Canoe on Hawkins Creek, Hubert, NC

Canoe on Hawkins Creek, Hubert

I recently witnessed a visible change in Queens Creek that was caused by iron, precipitating into the water. That may have been a natural phenomena, but I am suspicious about the cause, because I don’t remember ever seeing rust colored water in any of our local estuaries in over 20 years of paddling in them. I discovered, while examining water samples under a microscope, that the rusty water contained significantly less phytoplankton than a sample I took the same day on an adjoining creek that didn’t have excess iron.

DJT_6351Micro-organisms may seem insignificant, but they are the very base of the food chain. Without them, there are no bass, flounder, or red drum. Microorganisms can also be toxic, like the red tide. Any imbalance of phytoplankton can have significant impacts on our food supply. There are also microorganisms, like dinoflagellates (pfiesteria piscicida), that can impact human health, in addition to killing fish.

Whenever we pollute the water, whether it be with excess nutrients, untreated sewage, pesticides, herbicides, or other chemicals, we shift the balance in the microscopic populations and jeopardize the very base of the food chain on which every living thing depends; including us. Impaired waters can result from many seemingly insignificant sources of pollution, like excess fertilizer applied to lawns, or large sources of pollution, like runoff from a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO). It could even be from a seemingly natural increase in dissolved iron. I’m not going to say that mother nature is always benevolent, but she has a way of maintaining the balance.

_DJ23899When you combine natural impacts with unrelenting human impacts, the results can be devastating. You may have read the recent news about the loss of about half of the wildlife on the planet in the past 40 years. While the reasons for wildlife loss are various, every negative impact matters. Sometimes it may seem like conservationists are creating a tempest in a teapot over what may seem like trivial issues. Allow me to use an analogy: When your financial situation is such that your bills are paid and you’ve got lots of money left over for discretionary spending, you don’t get really excited about an increase in the price of gasoline, a gallon of milk, or a dozen eggs. After all, it just chips away at your surplus; you’ve still got plenty of money for basic needs. However, when your property taxes go up, your income goes down, and you’re clipping coupons just to put food on the table, all of a sudden, even a small price increase can impact your quality of life.

The environment is not unlike your household budget. When environmental quality is high, production is high, and when demand doesn’t outstrip production, there are surpluses and nobody gets too excited about some environmental degradation. However, after centuries of environmental degradation, habitat destruction, and increasing demands on production by an ever growing human population, we’ve reached the point where small impacts equate not only to less food on our plate, but sometimes entire species are disappearing, which can start an irreversible chain reaction.

_DJ23860Every time a food source disappears, the people relying on that food source must find something to replace it. That results in more pressure on the remaining resources, possibly resulting in yet another collapse in the food web, which, in turn, puts even more pressure on the remaining sources of food.

Conservationists and environmentalists may sound like mother hens, at times, but it is imperative that every one of us get educated about what we can do to reduce our impact on our environment and take action, now.  There is no time to wait. I know most people are already struggling with their day to day lives. I know I am. Once you begin to understand the way your choices impact the environment, you can begin to make better choices. In many cases, you can save time, money, or both.

Here are some simple examples that you may have heard of, and even implemented in your life. Thank you, for all that you have done, and anything you can do in the future.

  • Use re-usable grocery bags to save on plastic trash
  • Replace tungsten light bulbs with energy saving compact fluorescent bulbs, or better yet, LEDs
  • Properly dispose of trash (don’t litter), and please recycle
  • Don’t over fertilize your lawn, and don’t apply fertilizer or chemicals right before a heavy rain
  • Combine trips to the store to save time and fuel
  • Don’t flush medications (or dental floss!) down the toilet; actually, it’s bad to flush much of anything down the toilet other than what it was made for
  • Eat less meat
  • Go kayaking with your Riverkeeper

I could go on for days, here. I know there are lots of Internet sites with suggestions on how to shop wisely and manage your lawn and household in an environmentally responsible way. The point I’m trying to make here is that you are doing yourself, your friends, family, and your descendants a disservice if you don’t at least take a few minutes to evaluate your life, cut out waste, and reduce your use of toxic chemicals and fertilizers that end up in our lakes, rivers, streams and ocean. The fish you kill might be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back. Your used motor oil might kill the last piping plover and start a chain reaction that results in the extinction of all life on Earth! Ha! You would have been disappointed if I didn’t throw in at least one doomsday remark.

Life on planet Earth has changed, because our environment and our circumstances have changed. There are over 7 billion of us, now. We need to get smarter if we’re going to survive. That, my friend, is a fact. Thank you, for taking the time to read this. I hope you’ll give it some thought.

Operation Medicine Drop 2015

OMD2015smOperation Medicine Drop is a great program that helps people dispose of unneeded and out-of-date medications that might otherwise pollute our drinking water, or harm someone; especially children. more information

If you have medications you need to dispose of, please click on the flyer to locate the site that is most convenient to you and drop them off on Saturday the 26th. It’s a no-questions-asked, quick-and-easy drop off. The people collecting the drugs will dispose of the drugs and make sure any identifying information on the containers is destroyed. Please don’t flush your medications down the toilet, and don’t leave them where they might fall into the wrong hands.

If you want to volunteer to help with the collection and cataloging of the drugs, please contact Daisy Haywood at 910-546-2957, or e-mail her at There is a law enforcement officer or two at each site. They have the forms and will instruct you on what needs to be done. If you’ve got a few hours to spare, it’s a great way to help out. We never have too many volunteers.

Click here for a PDF of the flyer.

NC CPA Day of Service

_DJ23892Today, Dale Weston and I helped facilitate a trash pickup by a local group of CPAs, headed up by Steven Scarborough. The group was out to give something back to our state on the N.C. CPA Day of Service.  There were about 15 accountants on the water at one time. That by itself is quite an accomplishment! We were also joined by John Lister (Swansboro Board of Commissioners).

_DJ23880April Clark (Proprietor: Second Wind Eco Tours and White Oak-New Riverkeeper Alliance Board member), provided us with 8 kayaks and paddles. She had the equipment all ready for us by the time we arrived to pick it up.

The ramp at Cedar Point Park, where we launched, was buzzing with activity by 08:30 this morning. Some of the group was on the water before our official launch at 09:00. We got off to a strong start, coasting with the wind behind us.


At first, the trash was light, but there always seems to be those places that you just can’t keep clean, because the people who frequent them can’t be bothered with picking up after themselves. I am at a loss to understand people who think throwing their beer bottles and other refuse into the grass is okay. I know a good deal of the trash comes from fishermen, because I pick up lots of bait containers and fishing line. I would think fishermen would have an interest in protecting our water resources. I’m not sure they understand the damage we’re doing to the oceans by using them as our personal dumpster. I spend a lot of my personal time and resources, picking up after thoughtless people. All I’ve ever asked people to do is think.

_DJ23904Anyway, I’m pretty sure we came back with as many accountants as we took out. I’d like to think that one of the accountants accounted for everyone. I, personally, did not take a head count. If we left anyone behind, I’m apologize. It’s not that I don’t like accountants … I promise.

We did come back with a couple bags full of trash and a few derelict crab pots. Every piece of plastic anyone takes out of the environment is a step in the right direction. It all matters, and if we get it before it begins breaking down into tiny pieces, it means it won’t end up in the fish we eat.

_DJ23890Thanks to everyone who came out, today, and to April Clark for providing boats and moral support. It was a great day for a paddle, we did a great thing for the environment, and we introduced some new people to paddling. Who said accountants can’t have fun?

<– that’s Dale Weston in the canoe

New River Roundtable Meeting

Feel free to join. These are open to the public and you will learn a lot about local issues and how to become involved.

WHEN:    Thursday, September 17th,  1pm – 3pm.
WHERE:  Sturgeon City in Jacksonville (
WHO:    Jennifer Dorton – Coordinator for the North Carolina Sentinel Site Cooperative, or NCSSC (



Meeting to Oppose the Building of Sanderson Farms

There is a public hearing to oppose the building of Sanderson Farms poultry operations in St. Pauls, Robeson County, NC. If approved, we are likely to see them in the White Oak region in the near future as well. You can help by attending the meeting this Thursday, September 17 at 7:00 pm at the R. E. Hooks Community Building located at 176 North 3rd St in St Pauls. Here is a a short and informative video on poultry waste pollution:

It All Flows Downstream: Maysville Wastewater Treatment Plant (Part 2)

Here is all of the documents obtained during WONRA’s investigative meeting with the DWR in light of employee complaints and a return inspection. The meeting shined a bit more clarity on the report that we got from the prior employee, or at least the DWR’s opinion of what they believe to have happened. The plant has been out of compliance dating back four years, at least on most inspections. The complaint from the employee stated the inspectors were mislead about the plant 1) having a composite sampler onsite, and 2) the tertiary system being in use. According to the state officials the facility is using another method that sufficiently substitutes for an expensive composite sampler. They are also aware of the tertiary system being shut off and recommend continued chlorination because of this. In remedy of the compliance issue, the state employees said that the Plant must agree to an SOC (Special Order by Consent) in order to avoid the EPA’s attention. Last Thursday evening Douglas Toltzman (WONRA Treasurer) and I attended the Maysville Town Meeting. During the meeting the new interim Town Manager, Mr. James Harper (Former Mayor of Maysille) announced to the commissioners that the Waste Treatment Plant will begin paying a fine to the state on a monthly basis going forward. No mention was made of the possibility of an SOC. Speaking with others outside following the meeting it became clear that the Plant does not have the ability or funding to agree to an SOC – which would require a timeline for upgrades for compliance to be met. I think I speak for all of WONRA when I say the last thing that we would want for a Town with such little monetary resources is to be fined. However, we cannot be responsible for the response, or lack-thereof, of the Town Manger, Mayor, and Commissioners.


To keep up with Town of Maysville Meeting dates and times check back here:


Board Member

Nicole L. Triplett



















It All Flows Downstream: Maysville Wastewater Treatment Plant (Part 1)


We Are Hiring!

We expect to have a new Riverkeeper starting on October 1, 2015. Here is the job description:

Riverkeeper – Job Description and Requirements

The White Oak-New Riverkeeper Alliance (WONRA) is currently seeking to hire a highly motivated, passionate person to be our new Riverkeeper. The White Oak and New Rivers are in Eastern North Carolina mostly in the counties of Onslow, Carteret and Jones. Our Riverkeeper is responsible for overseeing our mission, projects, and programs. We have a grant to fund this position for one year and we expect to have funding for subsequent years, but there is a chance that this will be a 1 year position.
The Riverkeeper is the chief spokesperson for the alliance and their major duties include, but are not limited to:

  • Direct an effective water quality monitoring program
  • Direct an environmental education program
  • Understand and enforce relevant environmental laws
  • Direct public information and relations programs
  • Direct a volunteer program
  • Write and submit grant applications to secure program funding

Professional Qualities Desired

  • Scientific training in hydrology, aquatic biology and water chemistry
  • Strong motivational and team building skills
  • Excellent internal and external communication skills
  • Strategic planning and thinking abilities
  • Strong organizational skills
  • 4 year degree in related discipline

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

  • Public speaking ability
  • Interact positively but assertively with community leaders
  • Inspire confidence in volunteers and community activists
  • Be generally familiar with land uses, pollution point sources, and other water quality threats in the White Oak and New River basins
  • Ability to gather evidence for litigation
  • Ability to fundraise for advocacy, communications and programs related to Riverkeeper issues
  • Proficient computer user; word processing, spread-sheets and presentations

Starting salary $23,000/year plus medical allowance.

WONRA is an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will be considered.
Please send your resume’ to

Major Site Overhaul

dark-creekIn preparation for our new Riverkeeper, this site is being reconstructed as a WordPress site, so it can be updated easily by multiple people. You should expect lots of good things to come.

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