Conservation Groups Seek to Stop Thomasville’s Sewage Pollution
On behalf of the Yadkin Riverkeeper, the Southern Environmental Law Center today gave notice to the City of Thomasville for violations of the federal Clean Water Act for repeatedly discharging untreated sewage from its wastewater system into waterways in the Yadkin River Basin. The notice was sent to Thomasville’s Mayor and City Manager, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
“Despite years of violations, Thomasville has not made the system-wide improvements necessary to stop these serious, recurrent violations,” said Julie Youngman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “We hope that this notice will spur Thomasville to work with state agencies to create and fund an enforceable plan to end the sewage spills.”
In the summer of 2009, a single sewage spill reportedly lasted several days and discharged more than 15.9 million gallons of wastewater into a tributary of Hamby Creek. Since September 2009, Thomasville has reported 144 additional sanitary sewer overflow episodes that discharged nearly three million gallons of untreated sewage, 2,844,418 gallons of which reached local waterways. Thomasville’s sewage spills flow into Hamby Creek, Abbotts Creek, and eventually into High Rock Lake, waterways that the state has already determined to be impaired by pollution.
Thomasville’s discharges are prohibited under the Federal Clean Water Act. The state Division of Water Quality has periodically fined Thomasville for the discharges, but has not taken any comprehensive enforcement action to address the pattern of violations.
“Millions of gallons of Thomasville sewage dumped into streams leading to the Yadkin River and High Rock Lake means fecal coliform, viruses, and disease-causing bacteria now contaminate those waters,” said Dean Naujoks, Riverkeeper and Executive Director of Yadkin Riverkeeper. “We can’t allow Thomasville to continue to foul one of North Carolina’s great rivers and our second-largest lake, a major fishing and swimming resource. Fishable, swimmable, drinkable water is a fundamental right granted to every citizen under the Clean Water Act.”
Sanitary sewer overflows are incidents in which untreated sewage flows out of the system of pipes and pump stations that transport sewage from homes and businesses to a wastewater treatment plant. Thomasville’s sewage discharges are caused by multiple factors, including mechanical failures, pipe failures, and seepage resulting from an aging collection system. Thomasville has a long history of such incidents, with sewage spills regularly reported since at least 2007.
The notice means that the Southern Environmental Law Center will file suit at the end of a 60-day period, unless the violations are addressed.
About the Southern Environmental Law Center:
The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC’s team of more than 60 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use.
Yadkin Riverkeeper is a non-profit member organization that seeks to respect, protect, and improve the Yadkin Pee Dee River Basin through education, advocacy, and action. Yadkin Riverkeeper is funded by individuals and foundations who share its commitment to creating a clean and healthy river that sustains life and is cherished by its people. Yadkin Riverkeeper is also a licensed member of the Waterkeeper Alliance, which connects and supports local Waterkeeper programs to provide a united voice and to champion clean water issues around the world.