Blounts Creek, N.C. faces flood of mine wastewater

Beginning in rich wetlands, Blounts Creek slowly flows and broadens before merging into the Pamlico River in North Carolina’s inner banks region. Its unique habitat and waters are vital to an abundance of fish—including red drum, speckled trout, and river herring—which makes the creek popular for fishing and boating.

Destructive mine discharge

The N.C. Division of Water Resources permitted plans to inundate Blounts Creek with mining wastewater from Martin Marietta’s proposed 649-acre open pit mine in Beaufort County, N.C. The proposed mine is near Vanceboro.  Instead of pursuing less harmful alternatives for disposal, Martin Marietta plans to dump up to 12 million gallons per day of wastewater into Blounts Creek’s headwaters. 

The discharge would transform the swampy headwaters habitat into a fast-flowing stream consisting primarily of mine wastewater, permanently altering the creek’s diversity of life and abundance of high quality habitat for fish that prefer swampy waters.

Protect Blounts Creek

On behalf of the Sound Rivers and the N.C. Coastal Federation, the Southern Environmental Law Center challenged the state permit as failing to protect the waters of Blounts Creek and violating the core requirement of the Clean Water Act:  to protect our waters – and the numerous benefits they provide – as they exist naturally.

Martin Marietta admitted in its application that the altered creek would no longer support its existing mix of fish species and would no longer be considered swamp waters due to the increased flow, increased pH, and other changes resulting from the discharge.  Under federal and state law, North Carolina cannot authorize discharges that will violate water quality standards by changing the natural mix of species in a water body or by destroying special habitats, like Blounts Creek, that are protected by law because of the important role they play in maintaining the natural environment.

Generations in Beaufort County have grown up fishing and boating on Blounts Creek. The natural diversity of life in Blounts Creek is beloved by the local community and many families across the state who want to ensure the creek is protected for future generations.

Heather Deck, Executive Director, Sound Rivers