A project mapping pollution hazards to the Neuse and Pamlico-Tar River basins and the communities affected is underway, thanks to the work of a Sound Rivers intern and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s EcoStudio.
“This will be a very useful tool for Sound Rivers, so people can very clearly see through the maps, through the narratives, that our fight for clean water — for fishable, swimmable, drinkable water — is so intertwined with environmental justice issues throughout the river basin,” said Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper Jill Howell. “This is actually pretty vital to our mission.”
Howell has been working closely with intern Eva Ramirez-Flores, a UNC senior majoring in environmental science, to map the watershed’s landfills, superfund sites and concentrated animal feeding operations such as industrial hog facilities.
“This is pretty important for framing, I think it’s really useful to see them all in one place because the map looks terrible, there are so many overlapping things, and they’re all cumulative. When you look at all the facilities — there’s a cumulative effect for these facilities that cause both environmental harm and harm to the communities that they’re actually in,” Howell said. “This feels like a really good, comprehensive tool for people to get a picture of the environmental justice issues going on in the watershed and how they affect water quality.”
The storymapping project will result in an online resource that includes an overall picture of not only pollution sources of the waterways, but a look at another issue effecting so many eastern North Carolinians: flooding — the number, locations and demographics of communities that stand to be most impacted by the threat of sea-level rise and its source, climate change.
EcoStudio reached out to Howell about a potential partnership and asked the Riverkeeper to pitch a project idea, which led to a match with Ramirez-Flores, whose minor is in information systems.
“I have close contact with here in setting up goals and deliverables. We meet weekly to go over everything she’s done,” Howell said, adding that Ramirez-Flores spends six to nine hours a week on the project. “She’s been really great to work with.”
Howell said the project will be complete and online by early summer. To get an idea of what Sound Rivers’ completed storymapping project will look like, visit this one by Haw River Assembly.