Local News

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

Posted June 4, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— It's no secret that North Carolina's waterways are sick. The big debate these days is over where to place blame and assign responsibility for cleaning them up.

A new bill in the State Senate targets the usual suspects, like hog farms, but it also points the finger at others. Golf courses and private citizens will have to take the blame if the proposed Clean Water Responsibility Act legislation is passed.

The Senate bill is a revamped version of legislation first introduced in the House. If it passes, the bill would require those who spread fertilizer on Tarheel golf courses to hit the books before hitting the links.

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

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

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

But the bill isn't law yet, and has a long legislative process to get through before it ever would be. Observers say they hope lawmakers don'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 law requiring those who aren't certified by a national association to be certified by the state.

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

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

The clean water act takes aim at a lot of targets. North Carolina's waterways are some of the sickest in the country. The new bill would shackle the hog industry with a 2-year moratorium on new or expanding existing farms and give local governments more power over regulation of hog operations.

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

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