News

Neuse River Rising paddle: Day 5

Environmental, Sound Rivers

Posted on September 27th, 2022

DAY 5: MORNING UPDATE

DAY 5: AFTERNOON UPDATE

PFAS, or forever chemicals, are human made compounds that are found in things like non-stick pans, waterproof clothing, and firefighting foam. They last for extremely long periods of time — so once they enter our waterways they don’t go away — and are harmful to people’s health.

We stopped near the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base on the Neuse River to collect a water sample to assess PFAS levels.

DAY 5: EVENING UPDATE

We woke this morning to the sounds of bird chatter and a much faster-moving river. The morning was beautiful at our sweet little camping spot perched above the river banks, and the day started out slow and peaceful.

Today’s paddle brought us face to face with both visible and invisible sources of pollution on the Neuse River. We paddled around a big river bend in Goldsboro, where for many river miles, an ATV park has transformed the forest bordering the river into a muddy moonscape. As we paddled along the river, we could see places where off-road vehicles had driven right into the river, tearing up the banks, uprooting vegetation and turning the water to mud. Sedimentation and stream-bank erosion are outcomes of land-use changes that remove trees and ground cover and disrupt soils, causing them to loosen and more easily wash away. When ATV tires churn the soil up over and over again, the ground quickly turns into a muddy soup. Standing on the riverside, we could see muddy tracks running from barren slopes right into the river, and the surrounding water was thick with sediment.

When it comes to muddy pits and the Neuse River, it’s best to keep the two as separate as possible. Which is why the Neuse River buffer rules are so important — requiring at least 50 feet of separation between land disturbing activities and waterways in the Neuse watershed. Unfortunately, these rules are often not enforced, or simply broken, and the ATV tracks at Busco Beach are a striking example of buffer violations NC Dept of Environmental Quality.

In our days of paddling up to this point, Busco Beach ATV park stands out as a significant source of pollution on the Neuse River. Rather than allow these significant and noticeable impacts to continue on the Neuse, we hope the owners of Busco Beach ATV park will be willing to maintain a buffer of trees and vegetation between the river and the ATV trails. We’ll post more about this issue as things develop.

While the Busco Beach ATV park was a very visible and obvious source of pollution on the river, we know that there are also many invisible pollution sources on the river, too. One of those invisible sources is the Seymour Johnson Airforce Base, where known cancer-causing contaminants have been detected in the water downstream.

PFAS, or forever chemicals, are human-made compounds that are found in things like non-stick pans, waterproof clothing and firefighting foam. They last for extremely long periods of time —  so once they enter our waterways they don’t go away — and are harmful to people’s health.

On today’s paddle, we stopped near the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base because many Air Force bases use firefighting foam containing PFAS in their trainings. In 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency found a level of over 300,000 parts per trillion of PFAS in the drinking water of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base (a number well above the permissible limit of 70 parts per trillion). While the base addresses their drinking water contamination, they continue to use aqueous film-forming foam, which contains PFAS, in their firefighting trainings. We’ll report back on the outcome of our water sample and hope that as our communities learn about these contaminants, we move away from use of materials that contain them.

Our paddle day is ending in a fitting manner at a campsite on the side of the river, with many noticeable human impacts. At the N.C. Highway 581 boat ramp, we can hear the constant sound of traffic in the foreground, though the view of the river is as peaceful and spectacular as ever.

We are looking forward to tomorrow, where we’ll take on another 17 river miles through remote backwater and the famous Cliffs of the Neuse State Park. We’ll check in from the small town of Seven Springs tomorrow night!

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