News

The Week’s Top Five on Policy Watch

1. Carcinogens, other contaminants found near Roxboro and Sutton coal ash sites as EPA looks to weaken rules

Policy Watch recently reviewed more than 20,000 pages of data for a series of stories about groundwater contamination in wells around Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds: Marshall, Cliffside, Allen, Buck and Dan River. This is the final installment in the series, which covers Sutton and Roxboro in context of the recent announcement of proposed changes to coal ash rules by the EPA.

Tomorrow Policy Watch will examine proposed changes to the state rules and how the EPA’s proposal interacts with them under federal legislation known as the WIIN Act.

The 20 million tons of coal ash stored in two ponds at Duke Energy’s Roxboro plant is not merely sitting there, inert and resting. Rather, the unlined basins are known to leak contamination into the groundwater as well as Sargeants Creek and Hyco Lake. And now it’s known, at least in part, the type and amount of toxic contamination that is seeping into the groundwater within the plant’s boundaries, heightening residents’ anxieties that it could threaten private drinking water wells.

Data recently released by Duke Energy showed concentrations of radioactivity in groundwater at Roxboro as much as 11 times the maximum contaminant level. High concentrations of arsenic, chromium, cobalt and selenium were also detected in some wells near the west and east coal ash ponds. (See bottom of story for data tables.)

And at the Sutton coal ash ponds in Wilmington, contaminant levels were equally disturbing: 461 times the groundwater standard for arsenic, a known carcinogen. And six times state and federal standards for the chemical antimony, which, when consumed in drinking water, can cause stomach ulcers and other health problems.[Read more…]

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News

NC lawmakers tackle gun violence, school safety in daylong hearing

The House Select Committee on School Safety holds its first meeting this morning at 9:00am. Members will hear seven presentations ranging from the Center for Safer Schools to the N.C. School Psychologists Association.

Co-chairs Rep. John Torbett and Rep. David Lewis have allotted three hours after the presentations for the 40-plus member committee to discuss the next steps to improving school safety.

Even before the meeting, Democratic House and Senate members presented a slate of “common-sense” proposals aimed at reducing gun violence.

Click here for the full agenda of today’s hearing.

To hear what teachers are thinking about the idea of being armed to make our schools safer, listen to our interview with Elon Poll director Jason Husser, who surveyed more than 350 North Carolina teachers on the topic.

NC Policy Watch’s Billy Ball will be live tweeting today’s committee meeting with the full story on Thursday.

News

Nearly half of North Carolina’s children living in poverty (video)

Today’s Monday number’s column (on the main Policy Watch website) features a closer look at the well-being of North Carolina’s children.

Troubling numbers highlighted by the 2018 Child Health Report Card include:

46 – percentage of North Carolina children who live in poor or low-income homes (<200% Federal Poverty Level)

28 – percentage of North Carolina children living in households spending over 30% of income on housing costs. Higher housing costs can lead to difficulties accessing health insurance coverage and healthy foods, both of which can impact children’s health outcomes

22.6 – percentage of North Carolina children who live in food-insecure households

Learn more about the health issues and hardships facing North Carolina children in Rob Schofield’s recent radio interview with Whitney Tucker, NC Child’s Director of Research.

Listen to the full podcast below or an excerpt in the accompanying video clip:

Commentary, News

The Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

Photo credit: Ryan Monroe

1. NC students take a stand against gun violence, express deep concerns about school safety

Tallulah Cloos, 18, sometimes ponders ideal hiding spots if an active shooter were ever to terrorize her Buncombe County high school.

It’s not easy, she says. A.C. Reynolds High, located just southeast of Asheville, has a wide campus with an abundance of open spaces.

“I thought it was a weird thing to think about,” she says. “But some of my friends told me they were having these same thoughts. It’s sad that we have to think about this, but it’s necessary.”

Cloos isn’t the only one. Multiple North Carolina teens who spoke to Policy Watch this week talked of harrowing conversations inside school about how they would respond to a campus shooter, one month after a gunman wielding an assault rifle allegedly killed 17 at a Parkland, Fla., high school.

“I would like to say, ‘No, this would never happen at Riverside,’” said Joala Downey, a 17-year-old at Durham’s Riverside High School. “But honestly I’m not sure. My friends, we all just try to be positive. No one wants to think this will ever happen to them, but I don’t think the kids in Parkland thought this would ever happen to them.”

The anniversary of the Parkland shooting triggered an avalanche of campus protests across North Carolina and the United States Wednesday. Students at an estimated 3,000 U.S. schools walked out of classes for 17 minutes to memorialize those killed at the Florida school and to demand gun reforms from state and federal policymakers. [Read more…]

2. Landowners in the path of proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline look to federal judge for relief | Read more

3. The most important political battle of 2018 continues to fly under the radar | Read more

4. The Board of Elections battle: Where things stand | Read more

5. New report: School segregation is on the rise in NC and it’s harming our kids| Read more