2013 Clean Air Ambassador: Sam Perkins

North Carolina
Clean Air Ambassador | Charlotte, nc
Sam Perkins
Affiliation:
Catawba Riverkeeper
  • The Story
    Behind This Photo

    TO ME, THIS PHOTO MEANS:

    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.

North Carolina:
Ambassador  Terence Muhammad .
Ambassador  Brandi Williams APR.
Ambassador Dr. James Henderson .
z:
Ambassador Nina Maria  Kaktins.
Ambassador Denise   Abdul-Rahman.
Ambassador Gregory   Williams.
Ambassador Susan K.  Holmes.

In the First Person:

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 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.

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