Clean Up the Coal Ash Dump


Chapel Hill Police station, 828 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Chapel Hill

In May 2014, the Town of Chapel Hill informed the public that a coal ash landfill was found to be located on the site of the Chapel Hill Police Building. For more than a decade in the 1960s and ’70s, this property was used as a burial pit for coal ash. The coal ash in this unlined landfill contains known hazardous substances, including heavy metals that have leached out into the environment and will continue to do so.

The discovery of the coal ash deposit was likely made during a 2013-14 review of town property launched by the staff when considering the sale of town assets. The presence of the coal ash waste undoubtedly complicates the decision to sell the property. Whatever the town decides to do about the location of a new police station, we would expect that our Town will clean up the site. Chapel Hill residents deserve no less.

In a May 2014 letter to Mayor Kleinschmidt, Friends of Bolin Creek urged the Town to clean up the large coal ash dump and not to allow the coal ash to remain in an unlined pit in the center of town. Here is topographical map showing the location of the coal deposit.

The Town hired a consultant Falcon Engineering to make tests and to report to the North Carolina Department of the Environmental Quality (DEQ). Soil samples taken on the site by Falcon in early 2014 identified elevated levels of coal ash metals in the ground water such as arsenic, mercury, chromium, lead, thallium, and other dangerous pollutants. Well test results have been mixed at a new set of well locations, where the counsultant used filtered samples without finding high levels of dissolved coal ash pollutants.

Friends of Bolin Creek has raised questions about the procedures used and the choice of location for the tests, and we have communicated our concerns to the Town and Department of Environmental Quality.

The Town has posted a Web page called “Chapel Hill Coal Ash Disposal Site Remediation Project” containing relevant documents here. In mid 2015, Friends of Bolin Creek requested help from the Southern Environmental Law Center for legal and support services.

Clean up makes a difference.  According to a January 29, 2016 report, groundwater contamination dramatically declined along the Catawba-Wateree River after a South Carolina utility removed the coal ash under a settlement negotiated by the Southern Environmental Law Center. See article.

“These results confirm that when you remove the polluting coal ash, you also eliminate pollution of groundwater,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Duke Energy and North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality must wake up to this reality, learn from South Carolina, and move all of Duke Energy’s polluting coal ash from unlined waterfront pits to safe dry lined storage.  Otherwise, North Carolina’s groundwater will be polluted for years to come.”

North Carolina has more than 30 such sites in 14 different locations across the state. A pipe running under one of the ponds run by Duke Energy in Eden NC ruptured in February of 2014. The coal ash spilled, largely affecting the Dan River which flows into Virginia. The spill is the third largest of its kind in U.S. history.

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Mary Sonis Reprise: “A Carolina Walk in the Woods”

Mary Sonis, photographer and naturalist will join us again for a talk about local wildlife.

Sunday, March 20th at 4:30 – 5:30 pm

Chapel Hill public library

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A Carolina Walk in the Woods

A Carolina Walk in the Woods

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Bolin Creek hike this weekend, Jan 9

My favorite discovery on moving here years ago, given I’m a transplanted Philadelphian, has been Bolin Creek.

Its upper reaches, between Homestead Road and Estes Drive, offers the most beautiful and contrasting landscape. Here, you will find beaver swamps, Beech-tree forests, steep river banks and volcanic hillsides that trace a more violent geologic past, a mere half a billion years. Particularly impressive is the ancient ravine behind Chapel Hill’s neighborhood of Ironwoods.

Yet, many citizens have yet to discover these wonders. All ages will have a chance this weekend, however, when Friends of Bolin Creek sponsors a two-hour hike at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 9, at Wilson Park. The hike is free and will feature several well-known experts talking about wildlife, forest ecology and the nature of creeks. Please meet us at the Wilson Park parking lot at 1:50 p.m.

Read more here:

chicadee

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Chapel Hill Booker Creek Watershed Study

Town Announcement:  Learn about what the Town hopes to achieve for improving water quality and reducing flooding by studying the Booker Creek Watershed.  Attend the Lower Booker Creek Subwatershed Study Information session hosted by the Town’s consultant W. K. Dickson.

Join us Thursday, January 7th,
11:30 am – 1:30 pm or  5:30 – 7:30 pm
Meeting Room B, Chapel Hill Public Library

For more information and to take the online survey, visit www.lowerbookercreeksws.org.

At this information session, you will be invited to share your observations and concerns about stormwater issues in the Booker Creek Watershed. Each session will begin with an opportunity to hear a short presentation and ask questions and end with a wrap-up session.

Contact Inga Kennedy at inga@peqatl.com for more information.
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The Town’s stormwater studies will make recommendations about how water quality can be improved and flooding can be mitigated.

Background supplied by CHALT:

Leading up to the May 2014 Ephesus-Fordham Zoning District vote, town council meetings attracted the concern of hundreds of citizens who viewed the new form-base zone zone as a give-away to development interests.  The new zone conferred huge density and “fast-track” review but asked nothing on behalf of the community  interest, i.e.,  community space, energy efficient building or affordable housing.

At the urging of the Stormwater Advisory Board and other environmentalists, the town council agreed to require water quality treatment for each project redeveloped or built in the new district. Maintenance of those stormwater facilities will be paid for by a district tax levied on the businesses in the district.

Control over the volume of stormwater,  as omitted from the plans for the new zone.  Much of the nearly 200 acres of the Ephesus-Fordham district (including Eastgate and Whole Foods area) are located  at the bottom of the Booker Creek watershed.  We can expect that as the 3 – 4 million square feet of already approved projects located in the upper parts of the watershed are constructed,  the volume of water flowing through this area will increase and flooding downstream will increase.

For more information on the North Carolina Legislative Changes to the Town’s development rules and ordinances,  attend the January 14, 5:30 pm briefing at Town Hall. View details here.

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An Open Letter to the Carrboro Board of Aldermen

Friends of Bolin Creek sent this letter to the Carrboro Board of Aldermen expressing our strong concern that the Climate Change Task Force recommended a paved road next to Bolin Creek. The Board decided to remove the controversial wording and also asked the staff  to schedule a time to revisit the paving question on a future agenda. Time TBA.

_____________________________

Memo to: Carrboro Board of Aldermen
Re:            Climate Change Report Draft
Date:         November 10, 2015

Friends of Bolin Creek compliments the Carrboro Board of Alderman for initiating ways to mitigate climate change as a local community. We appreciate the opportunity to comment on this draft report.

We strongly endorse the recommendation for the town to form a utility to improve stormwater management within the city limits. Stormwater management is a major program element of Friends of Bolin Creek. For the past several years we have spearheaded a volunteer rain garden program modeled on Durham’s Rain Catchers and the highly successful Ellerbe Creek rain garden program. If the Town forms a storm water utility, we will be happy to collaborate with the town to build even more rain gardens that infiltrate rainwater into the ground and keep pollutants out of our waterways.

Although we support most of the thoughtful recommendations found in this report, we are surprised and dismayed that the task force included a 6 year old controversial paving proposal in this draft report. To build a 30 foot wide, two mile paved route to DOT specs (as required when accepting federal funds) through a 425 acre contiguous forest would be counterproductive to the goals of this report.

Given the unjustified and controversial nature of this paving proposal, we strongly recommend removing it so that the draft report can be accepted and moved forward.

A bit of history is needed for those not present when the BOA met this controversy head on in December 2009. The Town had hired a consultant who issued a report with a number of greenway routes. The BOA accepted the majority of the consultant- recommended plans and they were subsequently planned or built.

However, given the widespread concern and evidence that construction close to the creek would harm the natural woodland experience, reduce the value of wildlife habitat, destabilize creek banks, harm water quality, and damage woodland ecology, the Board “tabled” phases 3 and 4 of the consultant’s report and subsequently referred consideration of these options to the Carrboro Greenways Commission. The Greenways Commission discussed the pros and cons of this proposal during a year of meetings and finally adopted a resolution recommending no action because several alternate north-south routes were planned. Both the Board and the Greenways Commission have acted wisely to not take any further action toward paving phases 3 and 4.

A contiguous forest is a rare thing, particularly so in our rapidly growing triangle area.

The Morgan and Little Creeks Local Watershed Plan did a base line study of Bolin Creek and its tributaries in 1994 sponsored by the town of Carrboro, Chapel Hill, the state and EPA, and was overseen by a stakeholder group of officials from all jurisdictions. It is that study that has enabled Carrboro to secure 119 grants from EPA for restoration work in the watershed.

Under the patient and persistence of Carrboro and Chapel Hill leaders over several decades, the plan for Carolina North did not sprawl into the Upper Bolin Creek Watershed. Instead the new campus will be clustered in a compact form on the existing airport runways. The UNC Board of Trustees and Council of State agreed to conserve permanently much of the UNC land in Carrboro’s jurisdiction for posterity, and others tracts for 50 years. This is significantly more protection than Battle Park on the UNC campus now receives. The Board should support these successful efforts by many to conserve Bolin Forest.

Finally, in addition to removing this paving project from this draft climate change report, we strongly support the Transportation Advisory Board recommendation to take a step back and make a comprehensive study of all existing and planned bike and pedestrian connections in the area, including Chapel Hill and Orange County, with an eye towards developing an improved plan for an effective transportation network that can maximize reduction of carbon emissions while also meeting high standards of environmental protection.

Signed,
Julie McClintock
Salli Benedict
Mary Faith Mount-Cors
Rob Crook
Marty Mandel
Rob McClure
John Morris
Will Raymond
Diane Robinson
Del Snow
Mary Sonis
Joan Widdifield

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You Too Can Build a Rain Garden!

You can learn how to build a rain garden and improve the health of our creeks in our ongoing Rain Garden Program.

Thanks to a Strowd Roses grant, Friends of Bolin Creek has continued our outreach this year to teach community members how easy it is to build a rain garden.  We conducted another successful rain garden workshop in late May where we trained a number of homeowners to build their own rain gardens. They helped dig and plant a rain garden at  a homeowners’ site just off of Bolin Creek.

In late summer, Friends of Bolin Creek let a workshop at the Roger Road Community Center day camp.  Campers learned about critters, native plants and stormwater during a scavanger hunt in the field next door.  Then campers picked up shovels and together dug a rain garden near the entrance of the Roger Road Community Center. This picture captures it all.

Building a Rain Garden at Roger Road Community Center

To read more about rain gardens, see this short video about the 2014 rain garden homeowner workshop and read much more here. Read about the Chapel Hill High School Rain Garden we built with the Town of Chapel Hill Stormwater folks here.

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Spring 2015 Activities

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Spring Wildflower Walk with Dave Otto

Join us for a walk in Bolin Forest to see the Spring wild flowers this Sunday, April 12, at 2:00 pm at Wilson Park.   Dave knows his wildflowers.  Come prepared to brush up your knowledge. Meet at the Wilson Park parking lot. Map here.

Bloodroot

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“A Year of Carolina Walks” with Photographer Mary Sonis

Join Mary Sonis, local naturalist and photographer, for this free event. The February 22nd event  has been rescheduled out of respect to Coach Dean Smith whose memorial service will be held at that time.

                                               “A Year of Carolina Walks”

         New time: 2 – 3:30 pm, Sunday, March 22, Chapel Hill Public Library

Beaver
Email friendsbolincreek@gmail.com for more information.

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