Longpoint Landing Cleanup and Offshore Drilling Developments

On Sunday, November 15th a handful of us wandered out to Longpoint Landing and did a cleanup. All-in-all we gathered about 5 big trash bags full of trash (mostly beer bottles and cans) and a busted television. It’s always interesting to see what turns up on these cleanups. One of my favorite “treasures” is a completely flattened fork, which I framed and is now decorating my kitchen. Anyway, it turned out to be a lovely day. To keep up on future events please join us at: http://www.meetup.com/White-Oak-New-Riverkeeper/

Below are some of the photographs taken that day, courtesy Douglas Toltzman.

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In other news…

On Monday, November 16th the Carteret County commissioners voted in favor of offshore drilling in a 4 to 2 vote. This was not taken lightly by local residents. However it was stated by Commissioner Mansfield, ““At this time I have to stand in support of the governor and his views on offshore drilling.” You can read more on this HERE.


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Thanks to the Tideland News

DJT_6533Brad Rich, of the Tideland News in Swansboro, came to our meeting early and spent a few minutes, interviewing Nicole Triplett about her background and her new job as the White Oak-New Riverkeeper.

The Tideland News has always been a great supporter. More specifically, Brad has done a great job of covering environmental issues, and developments involving the Riverkeeper and related organizations. The Tideland recently publicized our November 7 meeting, and some details about our Riverkeeper program.

DJT_6541Speaking of our November 7 meeting, we had seven people attend, including Nicole, Dale Weston, and myself. It was a small group, but we had a nice, productive talk.

Thanks to Bake Bottle & Brew for hosting our little get-together.

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Town of Maysville, Wastewater Treatment Update:

Mr. James Harper, Interim Town Manager, announced last night at the Maysville Town Meeting that after speaking recently with NCDENR they have hired Envirolink to help manage the many issues that the municipal Wastewater Treatment Plant faces. Additionally, a new Operator in Charge (ORC) has been hired. ORC Lee Buck stated that he has 14 years of experience operating wastewater treatment plants, has rehabbed several, and has already pinned infiltration / inflow (INI – occurrences of stormwater infiltrating the system and causing overflow) as the primary concern to tackle. Mr. Harper has made a plea to the commissioners to accept a Special Order by Consent (SOC) with the state in order to avoid further fines and repercussions. The SOC contractually binds the town to pursue a timeline of upgrades and fixes in order to obtain compliance. This seems to be the most sensible route to take. It is my hope that the commissioners accept.

White Oak-New Riverkeeper Alliance will continue to keep our thumb on the pulse of this issue and keep you, the public, informed of any progress being made.


Nicole L. Triplett

White Oak-New Riverkeeper

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Nov. 7 Public Meeting

The White Oak-New Riverkeeper Alliance is having a planning meeting at the Bake Bottle & Brew coffee shop on the Swansboro waterfront at 147 Front St. The meeting is open to the public and will start at 10:30am on November 7, 2015. We encourage anyone who is interested in what we do to join us for an open planning session.

We will hear from our president, Dale Weston, our new Riverkeeper, Nicole Triplett, and Doug Toltzman on the state of our river, recent projects, what we need from our volunteers and the community, and our future plans.

Most of the meeting will be reserved for an open discussion about upcoming projects and public outreach. We are seeking new board members, and we’ll have applications for anyone who would like to apply. We would also like to enlist as many supporting members as we can (there is no cost to attend the meeting), because we rely on public support to run our programs and pay our Riverkeeper.

Whether you’re a paddler, a fisherperson, or just a concerned citizen, we’d love to hear from you. Nicole is your Riverkeeper, and she can’t do her best without community involvement and input.

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Dr. Stanley R. Riggs to Speak on NC’s Offshore Oil and Gas


Let’s protect and preserve our beautiful oceans and ensure that our future generations will have the quality of life they all deserve!


Join Dr. Stanley R. Riggs, research professor from the Department of Geological Sciences at East Carolina University, for a lecture and discussion on offshore drilling. This has been an increasingly hot topic in the Town of Swansboro, which houses a good portion of our White Oak river. As we get closer to the Town of Swansboro’s November meeting to vote on offshore drilling this is a good opportunity to learn some of the details of its effects on water quality and aquatic ecosystems. Let me know if you can make it. I will be attending the 2015 North Carolina Coastal Federation Water Supply Summit all day the following Wednesday, October 28th so I would appreciate any information others can get from this lecture in particular. Feel free to send me any information you gain that is integral to our local water systems through our contact page. Hope you can make it! 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015
6:30 PM
Joslyn Hall – Carteret Community College
3500 Arendell St.
Morehead City, NC
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Poetry from Melissa Birchfield

“Somewhere, out in the ocean — far away yet closer than we would admit — lies the carnage of those animals which have been entangled in plastic, filled with plastic, poisoned by plastic. Their soundless cries have fallen on the deaf ears of oblivion. When the plastic finally comes up into our seafood, into our bodies, then maybe we will start listening. By then it might be too late.” by Melissa Birchfield, a junior at Eastlake High School in Sammamish, WA.

I couldn’t have said it better, myself. See The Sammamish Review for more.

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To Drill or Not to Drill

_DJ23922I attended the October 14 Special Meeting & Workshop of the Swansboro City Council. The first half of the meeting consisted of presentations by four experts concerning off-shore oil drilling and seismic surveys.

Greg Rudolph opened with an overview of the off-shore drilling process, a general overview of seismic blasting, what the oil industry expects to find on our coast, the minimum time frame in which things might happen, locations, and some projected revenue numbers, along with how revenue may or may not be shared.

I took away a few things from his presentation. I was surprised to hear that the area that is expected to be the most productive is mostly inside the 50 mile exclusion zone. Apparently, that’s why our governor is working to reduce the exclusion zone to 30 miles. Another item that struck me was that outside 3 miles distance from our coast, there is no current law that says the federal government has to share any of the revenue with the state. A revenue sharing agreement must be passed by the U.S. legislature before North Carolina would get any money from off-shore drilling, unless it was right on our coastline (within 3 miles). Even if the state did get money from the federal government thanks to some kind of revenue sharing legislation, the State of North Carolina, would get first dibs on the money, and it’s unlikely that much, if any money would flow down to the local level.

_DJ23925Our next speaker was Dr. Douglas Nowacek. He explained what we do and do not know about the impacts of seismic air guns (used for seismic surveys) on marine wildlife. The good doctor explained that, although we haven’t documented immediate harm to individual marine animals, we have lots of evidence that would lead a rational person to conclude that constant loud noises (seismic airguns are the loudest sound humans put into the ocean, and seismic surveys continue through the drilling process) displace, disrupt, and otherwise annoy the creatures that are bombarded with them. He pointed out that noise levels were shown to change foraging patterns, cause animals to eat less, negatively impact reproduction, and other things you’d expect if an animal was under stress from repeated loud noises. Seismic airguns are very loud, and they can be heard for thousands of miles.

_DJ23926If you guessed that, in the interest of getting all sides of the story, the next speaker would be an industry shill, you’d be right. I must say that he was well chosen, in that he claims to have grown up in the area and has the area’s best interests at heart. David McGowen, the Executive Director of the North Carolina Petroleum Council took the stand and told us that there was no conclusive evidence of adverse effects on marine wildlife by seismic testing. To be fair, he was very respectful of the previous two speakers. However, his job was to allay our fears and convince us that there was great economic opportunity, and little to no danger of environmental damage. He also pointed out that the public is allowed to comment at every stage in the permitting process, in a bid to convince the council that it didn’t need to take any action in the near term. If you want the details of David’s presentation, you can get his sales pitch from Energy Tomorrow’s web-site.

_DJ23932Our final speaker was Jessie Hawkins. Jessie had a long resume’ that I didn’t manage to scribble into my notes, but I did catch that he was with the Division of Marine Fisheries for 30 years. What was most obvious about Jessie was that he is passionate about fish and the unique features of North Carolina’s coast that support them. He pointed out that North Carolina gets around a billion dollars a year from sustainable commercial fishing and tourism. He described what makes our estuaries and coastal waters unique and invaluable. He also pointed out that there is a lot we don’t know about the deep water spawning areas along our coast and how they might be impacted by oil drilling. Mr. Hawkins did an excellent job of explaining why we shouldn’t be too quick to gamble with our natural resources. He even suggested that a more sustainable solution might be to build wind farms to harvest the huge wind potential along our coast.

My thoughts on all this, are in line with Jessie Hawkins. I think we need to stop gambling with our natural resources to drill for fossil fuels when we know fossil fuels are not sustainable. You probably expected that from me. However, I have another thought: If we did get 55,000 jobs, as the proponents advertise, those jobs would come with the infrastructure that accompanies dirty industry. If you haven’t been to New Jersey, I suggest you fly into the Newark airport and check out the coast of New Jersey as you make your final approach. If you don’t want to visit NJ, try Houston. There is a reason why people come to North Carolina to enjoy the beach, and there is a reason why I live here, and not on the coast of New Jersey. Sure, economic development is a great thing, but the oil industry would destroy everything I love about eastern North Carolina. If I wanted to live in a booming metropolis and get up every morning to the smell of crude oil, there are lots of places I could go. I live here because the air is fresh, the beaches are clean, I can swim in the water, and I can eat the local seafood, among other things. The world doesn’t need more oil. The world needs clean, safe water and an environment that provides us with food and a good life.

Doug Toltzman

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About Our Riverkeeper

frame5smWe’re in the latter stages of hiring a full time Riverkeeper to help us do community outreach, organize events, keep an eye on our rivers and estuaries, inform our public officials, raise money, write grant applications, and other things related to clean, safe public water resources in the White Oak River basin.

Now, if that sounded like a lot to expect from one person, you’re absolutely right! There is no way one person can watch hundreds of miles of streams, manage public outreach programs, clean up trash before it gets to the ocean, and influence our public policy makers on policy decisions. Our new Riverkeeper will need your help!

We don’t expect our Riverkeeper to be an army of one. The Riverkeeper will need lots of volunteers for all sorts of activities and projects. The Riverkeeper will collaborate with our excellent city, county, and state, environmental actors. We currently have several governmental organizations doing water sampling in our watershed. The Riverkeeper will be the eyes on the river, and he/she will document and report significant events to the responsible authorities. In order to know when and where environmental incidents are occurring, the Riverkeeper will need paddlers all over the basin to keep an eye on the places they paddle, and report suspicious conditions to the Riverkeeper for further investigation.

In essence, we aren’t hiring a Riverkeeper. You are. You, the paddler, the fisherperson, the homeowner, the swimmer, sailor, boater, or just the person who eats and drinks and would rather not be poisoned, are getting a person who you can rely on to assess and advocate for your precious water resources. However, you are the eyes and the muscle of the Riverkeeper. He/she can’t be everywhere, and he/she can’t do everything. We’re counting on dedicated volunteers to pitch in, make our Riverkeeper program a success, and help our new Riverkeeper feel welcome and appreciated.

I, for one, will be there to help organize events and pick up trash. I will continue to report things like alligator weed, discoloration of water, sediment/erosion problems, trash dumps, fish kills, and other unusual events that I observe when I’m out paddling. Sometimes all it takes to help is a little education and a genuine concern for our quality of life.

We will be announcing our new Riverkeeper in the next 2 weeks.

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It All Flows Downstream: Maysville Wastewater Treatment Plant (Part 3)

The Town of Maysville has received a Notice of Violation and Assessment of Civil Penalty for Violations and Notice of Violation/Notice of Intent to Enforce. I have attached these for you to review. In summary, the Town of Maysville is paying a $4,000 fine to Department of Environmental Quality because of violations dating October, November, and December 2014 and January and February of 2015. These violations pertain to discharging waste water above permitted flow, exceeding the permitted monthly & weekly discharge of fecal coliform, and failure to properly monitor Mercury and pH.
*A side note on Mercury  – Mercury exists in three different chemical speciations: elemental/metal, inorganic, and organic. It is the organic mercury, methylmercury, you want to be concerned about most because it bioaccumulates (adds up in a biological organism, for example smaller organism eats mercury that has bonded with sediment, fish eats small organism, then human eats fish) once it enters the food web. Once this happens it also biomagnifies, meaning the trophic organisms (including humanimals 🙂 ) eat the affected organism, and exponential increases in mercury are being consumed. Yikes! Trouble is, mercury comes from many natural sources, like rocks and soil. But it is also present in  agricultural runoff. And we have a high instance of agricultural areas all around us. Mercury can affect human health in the following: fetal development – affecting things like neurological performance, causing speech delays, shorter attention span, learning disabilities. In adults – tremors, memory loss, numbness in fingers and toes, possible heart disease… The list goes on…
Coming off of that tangent…
As I had mentioned in a previous update, the last thing we at WONRA want is for the Town of Maysville to pay fines when they have little money to work with. The Notice of Violations does incorporate fines for “the amount of money saved from noncompliance” among other things. I think it is important to remember that environmental compliance should not be seen as arbitrary. This is the health of the White Oak river at stake. This is the health of the community at stake.
At any rate, we all need to stay tuned to this issue for the health of our River.

Nicole L. Triplett

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