Roe Stands with the Residents of Cocke County to Address the NC Department of Energy & Reaches out to the EPA
“The draft permit issued by the State of North Carolina Division of Water Quality does not adequately protect these downstream users”
WASHINGTON, DC – Monday, U.S. Congressman Phil Roe, M.D. (TN-1) joined with hundreds of local residents in Cocke County to address the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources officials regarding the proposed draft permit regulating discharge limits for Blue Ridge Paper Products located in Canton, North Carolina. The paper mill discharges waste from their manufacturing process into the Pigeon River which flows into Cocke County, Tennessee. In the following letter, Congressman Roe expressed his concerns to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), citing that the permit by North Carolina falls short:
I am writing to express my deep concern about the draft NPDES permit (NC000272) issued for the Blue Ridge Paper facility in Canton, North Carolina by the North Carolina Division of Water Quality.
As I am sure the Environmental Protection Agency is aware, the updated NPDES permit for the Blue Ridge facility is more than three years overdue, and the preceding permit’s limits for color discharge fell far short of what studies by EPA’s own Tech Team and an independent mill expert had said would be possible to achieve.
I am sure you would agree that the Pigeon River does not exist for the exclusive use of one facility. The fact is, local downstream economies depend on the quality of the Pigeon River. The draft permit issued by the State of North Carolina Division of Water Quality does not adequately protect these downstream users.
One aspect of the river that has been source of controversy for years is the dark color of the water as it is discharged from the Blue Ridge Paper facility. While the goal of the Clean Water Act was to move our nation toward zero discharge of pollution, this proposed permit would actually give the mill license to discharge more color pollutants into the river than it has produced in any of the past three years. How is this progress?
While color is a significant concern, other areas that are long overdue for improvement include reducing toxic chemicals in the discharge, and eliminating foam, odor and unpalatable fish.
Mr. Meiburg, the NPDES permit for the Blue Ridge facility has been controversial through the years, with a history of EPA intervention. I would ask that the EPA carefully review the final permit, to be actively involved in this process moving forward, and intervene as necessary. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you might have.
At the event, Roe stated that he understands North Carolina's concerns for maintaining jobs at the Canton Mill. However, he added, “I also care about the people this river impacts. Unfortunately, the draft permit issued by North Carolina falls short. The waters still run brown. The impact does not stop at the North Carolina border. I urge North Carolina to strengthen this permit.”
Roe also submitted written comments to the North Carolina Division of Water Quality, citing the changes needed in the permit.