SELC challenges N.C. permit allowing pollution into Rocky River

Industrial poultry operations produce large amounts of polluted wastewater. Unless state permits require strong wastewater treatment limits, much of that pollution washes into our rivers and streams. SELC is challenging one such permit in North Carolina. (© Scott Olson/Getty Images)

SELC recently challenged a North Carolina clean water permit that would allow the Town of Siler City in central North Carolina to discharge nutrient-laden pollution from its wastewater treatment plant into Loves Creek and the Rocky River.

Decades of discharging harmful nutrient pollution into the Rocky River—mean limits on the algal bloom-causing nutrient pollution that prevents folks from safely enjoying the river are long overdue. In the past, allowing such high levels of pollution led the state to declare the Rocky River impaired, or too polluted, to meet standards under the U.S. Clean Water Act. This recent state permit would allow a return to historically high pollution levels.

A new Mountaire Farms slaughterhouse—part of a multi-billion dollar chicken processor company—opened its Siler City facility in January and will be the major contributor to the pollution levels. Mountaire’s Siler City facility will process 1.4 million chickens per week, according to a report.

“Far from meeting its obligation to protect and restore the Rocky River and clean water, the state abandoned its duty by allowing Mountaire’s harmful pollution to go unchecked,” said SELC attorney Blakely Hildebrand. “This permit allows nutrient levels to return to historically high and harmful levels, exacerbating an existing pollution problem.”

Located in the Cape Fear River basin, the Rocky River is a region-wide destination for boaters, swimmers, and fishermen, and is home to the endangered Cape Fear shiner—all of which have been interrupted by a decade of nutrient pollution.

SELC is challenging the new permit on behalf of Rocky River Watch. The conservation group’s president, Connie Allred, says the Rocky River is a special place that deserves to be protected.

“It was the state’s job to protect it,” she said. “We are disappointed in the state for approving a permit for the Siler City plant that will make the pollution in the Rocky River even worse and prevent our families, friends, and the community from enjoying this special resource.”


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