Local News

Lawmakers Agree on Clean Water Bill, Welfare

Posted August 26, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— North Carolina's rivers are polluted and getting worse, but when it comes to placing responsibility for it, it all depends on which television commercial you believe.

Hog farms, industry and municipalities all point fingers at each other. Now State Lawmakers finally have an agreement to force all sides to do a better job at controlling waste.

Next to the budget bill, the Clean Water Responsibility Act is the biggest and perhaps, most controversial piece of legislation lawmakers had to work with this session. The bill passed both the House and Senate Tuesday afternoon.

What passed was a version that took the strictest proposal from both Houses: a two year moratorium on hog farms, county zoning, strict setback guidelines, a limit of nitrogen discharges for sewage treatment plants and strict criminal penalties for criminal offenders.

Basically, the Clean Water Responsibility Act floated past its toughest obstacle.

Although the Clean Water Reponsibility Act sailed through both Houses, a handful of opponents fought until the end.

Representative Franklin Mitchell (R) is urging House members to vote against the conference report. He believes the group is the most unfriendly to farmers the state has ever seen.

Bill Holman begs to differ. The environmentalist says the bill is one of the most important the general assembly has enacted in state history.

Conservation groups are thrilled. For them, this bill has been five years in the making.

"By itself, this bill won't completely do the job," Holman says. "But it's another step to clean-up our rivers."

Holman believes the big loser is the hog industry after it spent thousands in a last minute advertising blitz.

While restrictions in the bill are tough on the hog industry, they're just as tough on city sewage treatment plants. Still some representatives who are farmers felt singled out.

Representative John Brown (R) hopes to see the attitude of the general assembly be more appreciative and receptive to trying to protect what is foremost in North Carolina. That, according to Brown, is agriculture.

Lawmakers have also finally reached an agreement on a trial welfare plan which was the final sticking point on this year's spending plan. The welfare agreement allows certain counties to establish their own welfare program.

Senator Roy Cooper (D) says the plan is flexible and allows counties some freedom.

Lawmakers say they expect to vote on the budget bill Wednesday. As long as they tie up the rest of the loose ends, they should be heading home Friday.

Photographer:Gil Hollingsworth

andKerrie Hudzinski