N.C. administrative court allows flooding Blounts Creek with mine wastewater

Blounts Creek is a popular fishing spot in eastern North Carolina threatened by plans to turn the thriving habitat into a mine wastewater stream. (© Heather Deck/Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper, Sound Rivers)

UPDATE (12/29): This week, SELC filed an appeal of the lower court decision to allow mining waste to flood, and irreparably change, a popular fishing creek in eastern North Carolina. The appeal, filed in Carteret County Superior Court, challenges the Nov. 30th lower court decision that would allow up to 12 million galls of mining wastewater to be dumped into Blounts Creek each day.

A North Carolina administrative court today upheld a state permit allowing a proposed Martin Marietta mine to flood a popular fishing creek in eastern North Carolina with wastewater from the mine—and closed the courtroom door to citizens of the state.

SELC represented Sound Rivers and the N.C. Coastal Federation in fighting the N.C. Division of Water Resources’ permit, which allows Martin Marietta to inundate Blounts Creek with up to 12 million gallons of mining wastewater each day. The creek is a vital habitat to a diverse community of fish and beloved by boaters and fishers across the state. The state’s own analysis shows the mine discharge will transform the swampy, slow moving headwater habitat into a fast-flowing stream consisting primarily of mine wastewater. This shift would permanently alter the creek’s diversity of fish and the abundance of high quality fish habitat. The permit’s lack of protections for this important resource prompted the legal action.

“This state permit violates the core requirement of the Clean Water Act: to protect our waters as they exist naturally,” said SELC Senior Attorney Geoff Gisler. “We are disappointed that today’s decision ignores well-established law that protects places like Blounts Creek and gives citizens the right to enforce those laws. The people who love Blounts Creek deserve the protection that the law provides and that the state failed to uphold—we will now turn to the superior court to provide that protection.”

In his decision, the judge held that citizens who boat and fish on the creek could not challenge the state’s permit and that local marina owners’ business was a hobby.

SELC and our clients intend to appeal the administrative court’s decision to the Beaufort County Superior Court.

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