In what seems like a regular occurrence, both the Tar and Neuse rivers hit major flood stage last week from a non-hurricane-related rain event. The intense rainfall caused widespread flooding, road closures, prompted emergency rescues and unfortunately resulted in several deaths. The Neuse, currently in major flood stage, continues to rise in Kinston, and the Tar, while falling, is also in major flood stage.
Flooding has become all too familiar for eastern North Carolina families. Just this past June, the Tar River in Rocky Mount hit its third-highest level since records began at 27.24 feet – the highest on record for a non-hurricane rain event.
What we are seeing is climate change in real time, where rainfall events are wetter and rain is falling at faster rates than seen previously. This flooding not only puts people and property at risk, it is causing additional pollution problems for our rivers and streams. Last week’s rain event resulted in many untreated sewer spills across the state and our region:
- New Bern – 3,750 gallons to a tributary to the Neuse River;
- Greenville – 16,142 gallons to Parker’s Creek;
- Raleigh experienced six sewer spills totalling close to 500,000 gallons.
There were likely many more spills that were not reported to the public, in part due to North Carolina’s outdated pollution-spill notification requirements.
While the impact of climate change seems like a daunting problem that will take decades to overcome, there are things we can do today to protect the environment and public health.
- Communicate with your elected officials that properly managed and upgraded waste and stormwater systems should be a priority for your community.
Send a letter using our Action Alert here to tell the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality: Update your spill notification system for the 21st century to keep North Carolinians informed and their waterways safe.