Posted August 9, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT
KINSTON — It's not all quiet on the eastern front.
Waste spills, busted hog lagoons, and angry citizens are prompting state environmental leaders to call for tougher pollution penalties. This week, two spills at the Kinston sewage treatment plant are fueling the inferno.
City leaders say that two sewage pumps failed after a power outage, caused by a storm that blew through this week. The city's utility director says that these were not big spills, and they did not make it into the Neuse River. However, some environmentalists and city workers think otherwise.
Neuse River Keeper Rick Dove surveyed the situation in Kinston. City leaders said that the spill was contained to about 1,500 gallons lost. Dove disagreed.
One city worker, who asked not to be named, said that one of the pumping stations failed for hours, spewing forth 2,700 gallons every minute. That adds up to hundreds of thousands of gallons of raw sewage emptied into a Neuse River tributary.
Eastern North Carolina has become a battlefield. In its trenches are citizens, hog farmers, municipalities, and state officials. A recent advertising campaign by hog farmers tries to point the finger at city treatment plants for pollution problems.
Many municipalities now conceded that the farmers' costly ad campaign has effectively shifted the spotlight. Ellis Hankins with the N.C. League of Municipalities said that the public may scrutinize city treatment plants too harshly.
State investigators say that they should have more information by Monday. City leaders from across the state say that there are tens of millions of dollars worth of waste treatment construction improvements underway to deal with the problems.
As far as hog farms' contribution to the pollution, a freeze on expanding the hog industry is still being debated in the legislature.