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In one 37-mile stretch of the Catawba River around Charlotte, NC, there are five major power plants, two nuclear and three coal-fired. The plants and their production have grown along with the area's booming population and its even greater booming demand for electricity. This growth has seriously jeopardized the region's water supply. I grew up on this imperiled river, so when I completed grad school in Chapel Hill studying rivers and climate, I decided to come home to protect the heart of the Carolinas.

In the Catawba basin, 551 acres of ponds full of toxic coal ash and residue from scrubbers that capture air pollution sit propped up as much as 80 feet above the lake surface, like mashed potatoes on a plate with a pond of toxic gravy in the middle. Cleaning up only one pathway for pollution—the smokestacks, for example—will leave loopholes to concentrate the pollution in other pathways. For a truly clean environment we must combine the protection of air, water and soil. Otherwise, we will be left with rising medical bills, lost aesthetic value and most assuredly the expensive, taxpayer- and ratepayer-funded cleanup costs.

The Carolinas, with so many threats in such a small area with so much population, needs the utmost protection.

Clean Air Ambassador | Charlotte, North Carolina

Sam Perkins

In one 37-mile stretch of the Catawba River around Charlotte, North Carolina, lie five major power plants (two nuclear, three coal-fired). The plants and their production have grown along with the area's booming population and its even greater booming demand. However, the proximity of such population to five power plants has meant a significant threat to the region's water supply.

This is where I grew up, and when I completed graduate school in Chapel Hill studying rivers and climate, I wanted to come home to protect the heart of the Carolinas.

In the Catawba basin, 551 acres of ponds with coal ash and scrubber residue sit propped up as much as 80 feet above the lake surface, like mashed potatoes on a plate with a pond of toxic gravy in the middle. For a clean environment we must marry the protection of air, water and soil. Matter is neither created nor destroyed. Cleaning up only one pathway will leave loopholes to concentrate the pollution in other pathways. Otherwise, we will be left with the rising medical bills, the lost aesthetic value and most assuredly the expensive, taxpayer- and ratepayer-funded cleanup costs.

Kingston, Tennessee, and its $1.5-billion coal ash spill cleanup have realized this risk so well that the Tennessee Valley Authority is investing completely in dry-ash handling systems that will take contaminants removed the air, will NOT attempt to gradually release them into water, and will ensure lined, isolated landfill storage that will ensure an entirely clean environment for years to come. The Carolinas, with so many threats in such a small area with so much population, needs the utmost protection.

This is where I grew up, and when I completed graduate school in Chapel Hill studying rivers and climate, I wanted to come home to protect the heart of the Carolinas.

50 States United For Healthy Air

Clean air should be a fundamental right. Air pollution causes asthma attacks, lung disease, and even death. But our bodies don't have to be the dumping ground for dirty industries.

The technology to dramatically reduce harmful air pollution is available today, and major polluters should be required to use it.

Clean Air Ambassadors from every state are sending a powerful message: Everyone has a right to breathe clean, healthy air.

It’s time Congress and the EPA used their ears to help our lungs.