Boone County, W.V. resident Maria Gunnoe is one of the six recipients of this year's Goldman Environmental Prize, which awards grassroots activists $150,000 to "pursue their vision of a renewed and protected environment." For the past five years--despite threats and intimidation to her family--Gunnoe has fought coal mining companies who employ the environmentally destructive practice known as "mountaintop removal" in her native Appalachia. In 2007, she helped win a series of federal lawsuits that halted the construction of new mountaintop removal mines in Boone County.
She was featured in the Indies Arts Award-winning film, Mountaintop Removal.
Last month, the new EPA chief announced the agency would aggressively review mountaintop removal permit requests, which the Bush administration had allowed to expand greatly. Shortly before leaving office, Bush issued a controversial rule, allowing mining companies to dump the toxic debris from mountaintop removal into valleys and streams.
Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, has introduced a bill-- known as the Appalachian Mountains Preservation Act--that would make it illegal for electric public utilities in North Carolina to purchase, or use, coal derived from dynamiting mountaintops in southern Appalachia. Half of the coal used to produce electricity in North Carolina is derived from mountaintop removal, resulting in radically altered ecosystems, polluted streams and rivers, and billions of gallons of toxic “coal slurry,” collected in artificial pools, or injected into ground soil. Other than Georgia, no other state in the U.S. uses more mountaintop removal-derived coal.
In response to a citizen request that the N.C. Environmental Management Commission overturn the N.C. Division of Water Quality's approval of a private developer's survey of Jordan Lake, DWQ stands by its original ruling, emphasizing that it approved the survey based on technical merits alone.
"If the Durham County BOCC chooses to pursue another survey, DWQ will also consider those results based on their technical merits," writes DWQ director Coleen Sullins, in an April 15 letter to EMC (PDF, 532 KB).
The Indy has put in a call to state regulators, requesting information about the next step in the petition process. Presumably, EMC--not DWQ--will have the final say on whether or not to overturn the survey approval. We'll post an update once we get a response.
Meanwhile, Durham County is moving forward with a public hearing process before deciding whether or not to modify its zoning maps, based on the DWQ-approved survey.
In a February letter to Durham Planning Commission chair George Brine--one of the three citizen petitioners--John Hennessy, a supervisor in DWQ's compliance and oversight unit, writes, "It is my understanding that Durham County will be required to follow public notification procedures before adopting these changes to their zoning maps."
A consultant's report on a proposed Orange County waste transfer station omitted critical information about the presence of wetlands on one of the sites, the Indy has learned.
A recent analysis, commissioned by Orange County, reveals that the proposed, 143-acre site in southwestern Orange County contains multiple streams and wetlands throughout the property. That analysis, conducted by soil and environmental scientist Hal Owen, is at odds with a February 2009 report (PDF, 1.8 MB), by Charlotte-based consultants Olver, Inc., that stated "site development will not result in the impact of wetlands in the vicinity of the project."
In the ongoing, 17-month site selection process devised by Olver, the consultants excluded potential sites that did not contain at least 25 acres "unencumbered" by wetlands and floodplains. However, Owen's report shows that the parcel on N.C. 54 is covered with wetlands and streams. At a Solid Waste Advisory Board meeting earlier this month, Olver announced that it was recommending the purchase of just 25 of the site's 143 acres--yet, according to Owen's report, this area alone contains three separate wetland areas, and two additional streams.
Even before the private wetlands survey, conducted earlier this month, several local and state agencies questioned the environmental assessment prepared by Olver, and paid for by Orange County. (As the county's waste transfer station consultant, Olver has received more than $250,000 from Orange County as of last month.) Several state and local officers recommended a full wetlands survey, and--if wetlands were found--that the county apply for a permit through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the N.C. Division of Water Quality.
In a March 25 e-mail to N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources staff, DWQ Raleigh officer Danny Smith writes that, based on a DWQ site visit, "there is a large wetlands complex within the footprint of the tract."
"They indicated in the text of the EA that the Wetlands Inventory Map does not indicate the presence of wetlands on the map," Smith writes, referring to Olver's February report. However, "This is not a delineation and is not a meaningful accurate way to provide data to DENR."
Wake County health officials are trying to trace the source of more than eight possible cases of food-borne illness reported April 17, which may be connected to Evoo, a Mediterranean restaurant in Raleigh’s Five Points.
“We are currently investigating some reports of sickness,” said André Pierce, director of the environmental health and safety division of the county’s environmental services department. “The investigation is ongoing and we don’t have any results yet.”
Because epidemiologists had not yet identified the bacteria, virus or other agent that may have caused the illness, Pierce declined to speculate on any commonalities between the victims, including a restaurant where they may all have eaten.
“Typically we don’t implicate a facility until we have confirmation of lab results,” Pierce said.
However, shortly before 10 p.m., the Raleigh-Wake 911 Center received an emergency call reporting that someone was ill at Evoo at 2519 Fairview Road, said Walt Fuller, the center’s deputy director in charge of operations.
One paramedic unit was dispatched at 9:50 p.m. and called for backup upon arriving at the scene, Fuller said. A second paramedic unit, a quick responder vehicle and a fire engine all responded. In all, nine rescuers attended victims at the restaurant.
The paramedic units transported an unknown number of victims to Duke Health Raleigh, Fuller said.
In a possibly related incident, a second 911 call about sick persons, which came in at about 10:15 p.m., summoned two more ambulances and a district supervisor to the 1000 block of Vance Street nearby. Two people were taken to Wake Medical Center from that address, Fuller said.
Pierce, whose department is responsible for inspecting the 1,800 licensed restaurants in Wake County, said as far as he knew Evoo remained open Monday. However, no one was answering the restaurant’s phone Monday afternoon.
Past inspection reports on file with the county show that the restaurant, owned by chef Jean Paul Fontaine, has struggled with cleanliness issues in the last two years.
The most recent report, dated March 20, noted two “critical violation risk factors”: unsanitary food contact surfaces, including dirty utensils, and improper holding temperatures for cold foods.
Statewide health regulations list 18 factors that are given highest priority in inspections, Pierce said.
“These are those items we know are more likely to contribute to food-borne illnesses,” he said.
Evoo received a score of 92.5 out of 100 possible points in last month’s inspection, despite the deductions for the two critical violations.
On Nov. 20, 2008, inspectors cited one critical violation pertaining to food storage; raw oysters were being kept over ready-to-eat items in the walk-in cooler.
Two months earlier, on Sept. 4, 2008, the restaurant was cited for the same two categories of critical violations as the March 2009 report.
Evoo received a 94.5 score in both September and November inspections.
The public has less than two weeks to comment on a draft Environmental Impact Statement on a wastewater treatment plant proposed for New Hill, a primarily African-American community in unincorporated western Wake County.
The draft EIS, commissioned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, compares the New Hill site with three site alternatives, and is available online here: http://www.saw.usace.army.mil/wetlands/projects/WW-WTP/DEIS/index.html
Go to the end of this story for information on where to send comments.
The controversial $327 million project has a long history. The towns of Cary, Apex, Morrisville, Holly Springs, and the Wake County portion of Research Triangle Park, have formed an alliance, Western Wake Partners, to determine the best site for a sewage treatment plant. In 2006, they issued an environmental impact statement determining the unincorporated town of New Hill was the best place to flush their waste—despite reasonable alternatives in other underpopulated areas near the Shearon Harris nuclear plant.
However, that EIS elicited massive public outcry, and skepticism from state regulators, for having incomplete data and a lack of public input. Citing an approach that “does not appropriately evaluate the population directly impacted” in New Hill, hearing officers for the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources wrote that the report should not be considered an “accurate, complete and adequate document.”
So in 2007, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers took on the report, according to the Corps, so that it would comply fully with state and federal environmental laws.
Yet, the Corps’ draft EIS, written by a team of consultants hired by Western Wake Partners, has arrived at many of the same conclusions as the Partners’ original EIS. Though it does not explicitly argue for locating the plant at New Hill, the report appears to pave the way for the Partners’ intended outcome.
“We believe, very strongly, that the Partners’ preferred site represents the most cost-effective, and environmentally sound, alternative that meets the needs of our local communities—and it’s clearly supported by the draft EIS,” said Apex Mayor Keith Weatherly at an April 14 hearing to receive public comments on the draft report.
SERVICES ANNOUNCED FOR SENATOR VERNON MALONE
RALEIGH - The Malone family announced a schedule of services for the late
State Senator Vernon Malone, who passed away unexpectedly at his home on
Saturday, April 18.
* Viewing of the body will be held Wednesday, April 22 from 9:00 until
4 p.m. at Lea Funeral Home, 2500 Poole Road, Raleigh
* The body will be in repose at Martin Street Baptist Church at 6 p.m.
on Wednesday, April 22.
* Family will receive friends and visitors at 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. at
Martin Street Baptist Church, Raleigh
* Funeral services will be on Thursday, April 23 at 12:00 p.m. at
Martin Street Baptist Church, Raleigh.
* A burial service will immediately follow at the Carolina Biblical
Gardens in Raleigh after the funeral services.
The Malone Family has asked in lieu of flowers that individuals make
contributions to the Senator Vernon Malone Scholarship Foundation at Shaw
University. Donations can be sent to Shaw University, c/o Marilyn Fields,
118 East South Street, Raleigh, NC 27601
"We would like to extend to the great people of Wake County and all of North
Carolina our heart -felt thanks for the love, caring and sympathy, you have
shown our family during this period of grief and loss of our beloved father
and brother. We are truly touched at the outpouring of love and concern and
are humbled at the flood of calls and visits at our home."
The Malone Family
Rod, Barry & LaVerne
Sen. Vernon Malone's death today was sudden. Just a week ago, at the meeting of the Coalition of Concerned Citizens for African-American Children in Southeast Raleigh, Malone looked well and was talking energetically about the importance of the upcoming school board elections in Wake County. Malone was among the leaders of the movement to merge the old Raleigh and Wake County school districts in the '70s and, later, of efforts to promote racial integration in all of the merged system's schools.
"We've lost a fine public servant," said Wake County Commissioners Chair Harold Webb, his longtime friend and political ally.
“Senator Vernon Malone was a man of great character. He gave his heart and soul to helping other people. He worked every day to build a stronger community. He believed in working in the trenches to uplift the lives of those who could not help themselves. He believed in the value of education and he dedicated his life to making sure people of all races had the opportunity to get an education so they could live a better life."
Lindy Brown, Wake Commissioners vice chair, called Malone "a pillar of public service ... who lit the torch of leadership for the African American community and all of Wake County.”
Malone was a teacher, superintendent of the Governor Morehead School in Raleigh, and a county commissoner; he was elected to the Senate in 2002 and re-elected three times, most recently last November.
State Sen. Vernon Malone, D-Wake, died today at age 78 of an apparent heart attack at his home, the Indy has learned. The four-term senator represented District 14, including Southeast Raleigh.
"He was extraordinarily well-respected in the senate," said state. Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham. "He was incredibly articulate and passionate about education."
Malone served as co-chairman of the education/higher education committee and its appropriations committee. He attended Thursday's legislative session, but according to state Rep. Ty Harrell, was absent from this morning's Wake County Democratic Party Convention.
He held this eastern Wake County seat since it was created after the 2000 Census. Malone, a retired educational administrator and former Wake County Commissioner, was a longtime leader in the black community in Southeast Raleigh.
Harrell remembered Malone "as a friend and a champion and strong advocate for bettering not only Southeast Raleigh, but all of North Carolina. His loss is tremendous and I am deeply saddened."
Correction: His age was misstated in the original post; according to a questionnaire Malone filled out for the Indy endorsements, he was born Dec. 20, 1930. However, the legislative directory lists his birth date as Dec. 20, 1931.
In the lead-up to Monday night's 3-2 vote in favor of requiring a public hearing for map changes that would benefit a proposed mega-development near Jordan Lake, we re-capped the Durham commissioners' previous votes on the issue, as well as contributions they received from developers behind the project.
Going through our notes, however, we realize we've left one of the commissioners out: Joe Bowser. As noted in Monday's Triangulator post, Bowser raised less than $3,000 in 2008, and was not required to disclose individual contributors that election cycle. However, in his losing bid for the County Commission in 2004, records show that he received $2,000 from Neal Hunter, the developer who funded the controversial survey behind the proposed map changes, and a minority partner in Southern Durham Development—whose proposed 164-acre project hinges on the maps being approved.
We found this contribution while digging through records for our original story on the Jordan Lake snafu, but left it out because though he had been elected commissioner in 2008, Bowser had yet to vote on Hunter's survey. Yet, on Monday, Bowser--along with Commission Chairman Michael Page--voted against requiring a public hearing process for the map changes, which would have moved Southern Durham Development’s project outside Jordan Lake's one-mile protective boundary. Citing language used by developers, Bowser also introduced an unsuccessful motion that would have required the map changes go forward without public review.
"Neal Hunter was not a principal in this. It was Alex Mitchell and that guy from Raleigh," Bowser said in an interview, referring to Tyler Morris, who is a principal with Mitchell in Southern Durham Development. In 2008, Hunter—a minority partner in Southern Durham Development—sold approximately 164 acres to the company to build the high-density 751 Assemblage project, a complex of 1,300 dwellings and 600,000 square feet of office and retail space.
"I have forgotten all about that contribution from Neal Hunter," Bowser said, adding that contributions "don't matter" to him.
Bowser added: "It was not Neal Hunter that I was concerned about in this process, it was the other principals, who paid all that money for [Hunter’s] land, and are obviously going to lose their investment."
At Monday night's hearing, Hunter, his brother, Jeff; Alex Mitchell; Tyler Morris; and lawyers representing Southern Durham Development, claimed that their property rights would be violated by a public hearing process.
"The commissioners should put an end to this continuously moving target, and acknowledge the property rights that I have," Neal Hunter said. "You have no right to change the rules on taxpayers and citizens. As landowners, how can we rely on anything in the future?"
The Duke Park Neighborhood Association is urging Durham City Council to pass a resolution supporting same-sex marriage. Read the text of the letter to Mayor Bill Bell and Council below:
Dear Mayor Bell and Members of the Durham City Council: In its April meeting, the board members of the Duke Park Neighborhood Association who were in attendance voted unanimously in support of your consideration of a resolution endorsing the rights of same-sex couples to share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities and commitments of civil marriage. One of the many things that make us proud to be residents of the City of Durham is this Council's historical support of the rights of its gay and lesbian citizens, especially through its approval of domestic partner benefits for city employees that has been in place for a number of years. This new resolution, while non-binding, is nonetheless a positive and necessary step for ensuring that all of our residents receive the rights and respect that they deserve. We applaud you in your continued efforts to do the right thing by encouraging and supporting same-sex civil unions and/or marriage. Please do not hesitate to let us know how we can assist you in this very worthwhile effort.
Sincerely, Stewart M. Kennedy Board Member Duke Park Neighborhood Association