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Who's to Blame for N.C.'s Polluted Waterways?

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RALEIGH — It's no secret that North Carolina's waterwaysare sick. The big debate these days is over where to place blame andassign responsibility for cleaning them up.

A new bill in the State Senate targets the usual suspects, like hogfarms, but it also points the finger at others. Golf courses and privatecitizens will have to take the blame if the proposed Clean WaterResponsibility Act legislation is passed.

The Senate bill is a revamped version of legislation first introducedin the House. If it passes, the bill would require those who spreadfertilizer on Tarheel golf courses to hit the books before hitting thelinks.

Danny Gwyn oversees three Triangle-area golf courses and says he's all for legislation that will really benefit the environment. Under the newproposal, he'd have to go through 10 hours of classroom trainingand pass an exam to meet state certification requirments. Then he'd haveto have six more hours of training every three years. Gwyn says that mightbe going too far in an industry that already heavily regulates itself.

The training and certification test would center on things such as whento apply fertilizer and how much to apply when it's done. but anotherprovision of the bill may mean the average homeowner will haveto be state-certified before he can fertilize his lawn.

Michael Bowden agrees the state should take an interest in whathappens in residential areas, but he has reservations about certification.

But the bill isn't law yet, and has a long legislative process to getthrough before it ever would be. Observers say they hope lawmakersdon't lose sight of common sense.

Not all golf courses make sure their groundskeepers are certified.Right now it's all voluntary. Gwyn says he'd probably support a lawrequiring those who aren't certified by a national association to becertified by the state.

As for private citizens, this bill only requires the state to studythe idea of certification before fertilizing a lawn.

The bill's supporters say about half the fertililzersold in North Carolina goes to people who aren't farmers. They say it onlymakes sense to regulate it wherever it's applied.

The clean water act takes aim at a lot of targets. North Carolina'swaterways are some of the sickest in the country. The new bill wouldshackle the hog industry with a 2-year moratorium onnew or expanding existing farms and give local governments more powerover regulation of hog operations.

Cities and towns would also have to clean up their acts. The new billlowers the level of nitrogen that treatment plants could dump into ourrivers.

The proposed legislation is comprised of a huge plan with hefty aprice tag. You would have to approve one billion dollars in bonds to payfor the Clean Water Act.

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