• Promoting Viable, Equitable Drinking Water & Sewer Infrastructure for NC Communities

    Over the next 20 years, NC water and wastewater infrastructure needs are estimated to range from $17B to $26B. The State Water Infrastructure Authority’s (SWIA) Master Plan outlines where investments need to be made to ensure a viable future for NC’s nearly 1,800 public water utilities. Facts, figures, and historical notes culminate to make the following clear: intentional, forward-thinking investments are key to achieving viable, self-sustaining systems. Not surprisingly, many of our state’s smaller, more rural towns and municipalities face the greatest challenges when investing in and maintaining their drinking water systems and wastewater facilities. Declining rural populations and the outmigration of businesses reduces a town’s ratepayer base. Many small systems - those serving less than 10K customers – were created when there was more public funding available than there is today. And during those formative days, local water boards did not charge high enough rates to set aside for long-term repair and maintenance needs. Utilities facing these and other obstacles are deemed "at risk" or “distressed units” - unable to meet their financial, organizational, and/or operational present and future needs. The federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) provides not only much-needed economic relief for individuals and small business owners, but also throws a lifeline to states struggling to provide necessary funding for public water and sewer infrastructure projects. Of the $8.6B NC is slated to receive in ARPA funding, the NC General Assembly appropriated $1.69B directly for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater projects. $353M is set aside specifically for “distressed” utilities. While the ARPA federal assistance is essentially “free money” for NC water and wastewater systems to make needed infrastructure investments, Clean Water for NC staff understands that many small government units may not have the staffing or technical capacity needed to navigate the application process. Since February 2022, CWFNC's Water Justice Program Director, Rachel Velez, has been speaking directly with local governments about this unprecedented injection of federal funds for our state's most rural and underserved municipalities. Assistance provided includes sharing information about the types of projects eligible for funding, how to navigate the application process, where to attend Application Training sessions hosted by Division of Water Infrastructure (DWI), and how to work directly with DWI staff on a one-on-one basis to complete the application. With the Fall 2022 funding round just opening up, we continue on our mission of speaking with each of the 94 "distressed" local government units to ensure they have every opportunity possible to submit competitive proposals and secure much needed drinking water and sewer infrastructure for their communities. If you would like more information about the Fall 2022 funding round for water and sewer infrastructure to share with your own water system, please contact Rachel Velez at rachel@cwfnc.org.


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  • Much Work Remains for Meaningful Public Participation in North Carolina

    On January 7, 2022, NC Gov. Roy Cooper signed Executive Order (EO) 246, “North Carolina’s Transformation to a Clean, Equitable Economy.”  The EO 246 required, among many things, that each of the Governor’s agencies appoint an EJ Lead and updated Public Participation Plans for “meaningful, fair, and equitable public engagement in state agency decision-making.” In March, the Governor’s office began accepting comments via a “NC Access Survey” and similar efforts were conducted by the Andrea Harris Taskforce and DEQ Secretary’s Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory Board.  Clean Water for NC, as well as numerous other environmental, social justice, and community members submitted comments and even met with Governor’s representatives to flesh out the details of our concerns regarding meaningful public participation in NC.  Over the last several months, Governor’s agencies began appointing an EJ Lead and on June 1st, DEQ released its updated Public Participation Plan and Language Access Plan (Plan). We appreciate that DEQ took heed of some items we and numerous other folks raised, particularly efforts to reduce barriers to accessibility of hearings and meetings, as well as language barriers.  However, DEQ’s draft Plan does not address a number of concerns we raised. Specifically, we are concerned with inadequate notification and comment periods, limited transparency with limited tools, and community disempowerment during decision-making processes. Meaningful Public Participation should mean that people: Have an opportunity to be heard AND That their concerns carry weight. Adequate Notice & Comment We applaud DEQ for recognizing that notification about permitting decisions need to go beyond a single newspaper notice. Flyers should be posted where the impacted community can see, such as grocery stores, post offices, or other local centers or information boards frequently used by the public. For rural areas with limited community centers, mailers would be used. The Plan also mentions potential use of social media and radio. We appreciate the acknowledgement that “current statutory requirements for disseminating information for public notice have not kept pace with evolving media communications.” This is an aspect in which DEQ recognizes an existing barrier with negative ramifications and goes beyond the explicit limitations and requirements of agency-authorizing statute in a manner that is equitable and fair for the needs of North Carolina’s residents. Yet, the way in which DEQ implemented its review and comment period for this Plan came across as a bit disingenuous and in opposition to DEQ’s claimed effort for enhancing public participation and engagement. The Plan itself was only open for 30 days for public review and comment, a standard DEQ applies to most of its actions.  However, a 30-day review and comment period is simply not enough time, especially considering that agencies often spend months and years developing their rules as do polluting industries when they apply for permits—leaving the public scrambling to catch up and provide timely, thoughtful, and necessary comment to often highly technical matters.  Statutorily, 30 days is only the floor and DEQ certainly has the authority to allow for more public review and comment time.  A more appropriate timeframe is at least 60 days, even though the public is nonetheless at a disadvantage compared to the agency’s and permittee’s preparation time. Enhanced Public Engagement Another major concern is what the agency considers “enhanced” public engagement, which we deem to be the standard by which DEQ should apply all of its public outreach and engagement. According to DEQ’s Plan, enhanced engagement entails “project-specific and community-oriented communications methods” which may include, but does not require, (1) distributing flyers in locally-owned business, libraries, places of worship, and other community gathering places; (2) non-English language social media and other media outlets; (3) providing vital documents in non-English language; and (4) coordinate with community, faith-based, and other organizations to implement public engagement; among others. These “enhanced” approaches should be applied across the board, but the Plan would only allow DEQ to apply them if a community first qualifies to receive enhanced engagement. The systems used to determine whether enhanced approaches may be implemented include an EJ Report and the Community Mapping System (CMS).  These are two helpful but flawed tools that ultimately do not provide for anticipated outcomes.  For example, the EJ Report carries no bearing or weight on the decision of whether a permit will be approved. Rather, it is purely a tool to determine whether the enhanced engagement may be appropriate.  According to the Plan, the CMS is to be used to identify community demographic, socioeconomic, and health data that may fit the definition of underserved communities, but it does not provide this data at the same scales for comparison, such as county-wide vs. the census block level vs. the extent of the map view in the tool. Our past two newsletters from Spring 2022 and Fall/Winter 2021 have discussed some of these CMS deficiencies and efforts at progress to better account for inequities. Equitable Outcomes or Continued Disempowerment? The Plan outright acknowledges the need for equity and claims to “strive to be transparent and accountable, to seek equitable outcomes through inclusive processes,” and uses the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) definition of meaningful involvement as one in which the “public’s contribution can influence the regulatory agency’s decision” and in which “community concerns will be considered in the decision-making process.” It even provides a process for distributing and posting Title VI material.  However, DEQ has time and again stated that its authority is limited and cannot consider disparate, health, or cumulative impacts, nor can it consider the non-technical comments and concerns of community members.  This means that DEQ will not consider or weigh community concerns about disparate, health, or cumulative impacts— that is, not without an explicit statutory framework. Ultimately, the purported limitation of authority begs the question of whether the Plan will have any efficacy or whether it simply checks a box for an “opportunity” to be heard where those voices ultimately fall on deaf ears. Conclusions & Next Steps With these pitfalls in mind, we do appreciate DEQ’s effort to provide for increased public engagement, opportunity to be heard, and make improvements to further build DEQ’s relationship with the public.  We hope for continued opportunities to provide input on the Plan and look forward to continuing to communicate with DEQ officials. We will continue to work towards a robust and equitable Plan that ensures robust notification and comment periods, increased transparency and effective tools, and overall decreased barriers to hearing and meeting accessibility, language barriers, and community disempowerment during decision-making processes. We look forward to meaningful public participation where the people not only have an opportunity to be heard, but one in which their non-technical disparity/EJ, cumulative, and health impact concerns carry weight in decision-making processes. We reiterate: Meaningful participation should mean that people have an opportunity to be heard and that their concerns carry weight. Check out some additional talking points Clean Water for NC put together for better understanding meaningful public participation, as well as a joint-submission of comments to DEQ in response to their draft Public Participation Plan.


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  • Join us at our Durham Community Picnic!

    You’re invited! Join Clean Water for North Carolina at our summer picnic and listening session! The event will be held on Saturday, July 23rd at 1pm at Hillside Park in Durham. We’re hosting this event to engage with the community, build relationships, and get to know you! We are also hoping to speak with folks on what social and environmental justice issues they’ve faced, and how they would best benefit from a Community Toolkit to assist with organizing, working with public agencies, and more. We are redeveloping our Community Toolkit “A North Carolina Toolkit for…


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  • Celebrate Freedom on Juneteenth: Community Events Near You!

    Juneteenth, also called Emancipation Day, Freedom Day or Freedom Day or Jubilee Day commemorates June 19, 1865, as the day enslaved African Americans in Galveston, TX learned they were free. While the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Lincoln on January 1, 1863 and the 13th Amendment was passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, the news was slow to reach people in Texas. Finally on June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger with Union troops landed in Galveston and read aloud General Orders No. 3: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” Read below to learn more about how you can celebrate Juneteenth near your community! 2022 North Carolina Juneteenth Festival Concord, NC June 18th, 1:00 - 5:00 PM ChenMed & Accellacare present The 2022 North Carolina Juneteenth Festival themed "Educating, Empowering, Entertaining" will feature 80 black owned companies. Crafts, culture, performances, art, kids games, information and more is some of what attendees can expect. Free giveaways, discounts, and coupons make the vendor shopping experience like no other. Come support black business and black excellence. Recommended for all ages; admission is free. Cabarrus Arena & Events Center, 4751 North Carolina 49, Concord. For more information, see https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2022-north-carolina-juneteenth-festival-tickets-216003511317. Capital City Juneteenth Celebration Raleigh, NC June 18th, 1:00 - 5:00 PM Juneteenth (June 19th) is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the abolition of slavery in the United States. As part of the Capital City Juneteenth Celebration 2022, enjoy an afternoon of entertainment and food on Harvey Hill at Dix Park! The theme for this year's celebration is “Preserving the Past, Moving it Forward.” During this event, the mission is to “to celebrate the freedom of formerly enslaved African Americans by acknowledging their history and achievements through commemorative and historical services and activities.” Bring your lawn chairs and blankets to enjoy an afternoon of entertainment, family activities, vendors and food on Harvey Hill and the Chapel Event Center at Dix Park! Learn more today! Juneteenth Festival of the Carolinas Charlotte, NC June 16th - 19th Each year, the Juneteenth Festival of The Carolinas celebrates the end of slavery, and the African American community is taking the opportunity to come together to reflect and remember the historical event. Come join us for a peaceful celebration and learn more about the schedule and speakers at our website! www.juneteenthofthecarolinas.com Juneteenth of Asheville 2022 Freedom Festival Asheville, NC June 18th, 11:00 AM - 10:00 PM Celebrate freedom with the greater Community of Asheville. We will pay honor to our enslaved ancestors while enjoying awesome food and festivities. Join us as we travel to the past in solidarity to those we lost. There will be parade, vendors, food trucks, art, music, live performances, so much more. Visit the event website for more information! Juneteenth Jubilee Fayetteville, NC June 18th - 19th Organizers are pleased to announce the full performance schedule for the 2022 Juneteenth Jubilee, held on Saturday, June 18 from 12:00PM–9:30PM in Festival Park (335Ray Avenue). In addition to Grammy Award-nominated artists Amythyst Kiah and hometown rapper, Morray, the Jubilee stage will come alive with performances from Diali Cissokho and Kaira Ba, The Fatback Band, and Reggie Codrington. Diali Cissokho follows in the tradition of Senegalese musicians and storytellers known as griots. Together with his band, Kaira Ba–composed of Tarheel natives John Westmoreland, Jonathan Henderson, Austin McCall, and Will Ridenour–Cissokho weaves the traditions and rhythms of West African music with subtle notes of blues and folk sounds from the American South. NPR’s Frank Stasio described their sound as “at once unique and universal.” Learn more about the festivities here!


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  • Your Utility’s Annual Water Quality Report is on the Way!

    Can you believe we're already heading into the summer months?! Summer is the time for cookouts, family gatherings, and taking advantage of NC's beautiful swimming holes. It's also the period when your public water system will send out their Annual Water Quality reports! (Click the images above to check out examples of these reports from different size utilities) LEARN MORE! What is an Annual Water Quality Report? Annual Water Quality Reports (also called Consumer Confidence Reports or CCRs) are yearly reports that your public water system is required to publish that outline different aspects of your drinking water quality, including contaminant information, health risks, and contact information if you have any questions. If you receive your drinking water from a public community water system, like a municipal or county utility, keep an eye out for your utility’s Annual Water Quality report around June or July! The "Anatomy" of Your Annual Water Quality Report These mandatory reports outline different information about your drinking water, like where it's coming from, what contaminants are in it, any health effects from consuming your water, and how your water quality compares to national standards. These are all important aspects to understand as an informed drinking water consumer! You may have questions about how these reports will be distributed or who you should contact to find them. We can help! Depending on the size of the population your utility serves, the reports will be distributed differently. Utilities serving large populations will provide their Annual Water Quality report on their website. Smaller populations will either have theirs delivered by mail, included in the newspaper, or have copies available upon request. If you are renting, you can contact your building manager to get a copy. If you have limited English language proficiency, your utility may provide a translated version of your CCR, but give them a call to be sure. If you need assistance translating these documents, CWFNC has resources to help! ¡Hablamos español! Póngase en contacto con shelby@cwfnc.org o christine@cwnfc.org si tiene alguna pregunta con respecto a su Informe de la Calidad del Agua. For general questions about your Annual Water Quality Report, please contact our Water Justice Program Director, Rachel Velez for assistance: rachel@cwfnc.org or 919-401-9600.


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  • Thank You For Inviting Our Team Into Your Communities!

    It's been an exciting few months! After over two years of remote Environmental Justice organizing, the Clean Water team is finally back on the road traveling the state to meet with different groups and community members at events, speaking engagements, and local gatherings! We are so appreciative to finally be back in touch with our communities and are looking forward to all the exciting direct advocacy activities we have planned this summer! The Clean Water team would like to say thank you to all the groups and institutions that have invited us to their communities this past year to present on our Environmental Justice advocacy work and opportunities to directly support our efforts. We've met so many new faces and look forward to continue reconnecting with community members and ally organizations. Thank you for promoting Environmental Justice and safe, affordable water for all North Carolinians! Celebrating Earth Day & Environmental Justice Across NC! A big thank you to Piedmont Environmental Alliance for their 2022 Earth Day fair! Clean Water for NC joined the event as an exhibitor and had a lot of fun meeting people, helping kids with a take-home groundwater project, and visiting other vendors. The support from the fair's volunteers was wonderful; they helped us set up and navigate the day! Earth Day at the North Carolina Museum of Art was a blast! Not only did we enjoy talking with community members about groundwater monitoring and our work on poultry operations, it was great to chat with so many other nonprofits also working towards equitable drinking water infrastructure, safe drinking water, and Environmental Justice for all! Educating About Our Work & Opportunities to Get Involved In March, Professor Kata Chillag at Davidson College invited our Environmental Justice Organizer and Researcher, Christine Diaz, to speak to a "Water and Health" class about her work at Clean Water for NC, Environmental Justice, and career opportunities in this field. The presentation focused on current EJ issues in Southeastern NC, including wood pellet production, landfills, concentrated animal feeding operations, and cumulative impacts on communities. Thank you Davidson College! The NC Public Health Association held their annual conference in April: Connectedness and Equity: Public Health Creates a Healthier North Carolina. The annual conference "gathers public health professionals . .   from around the state to exchange information and create a healthier North Carolina through effective public health practice and engaged citizens."  They invited our Executive Director, Veronica Oakler, to speak on Environmental Justice in NC and Public Health Implications.  She focused on Sampson County as a case study of cumulative impacts from pollution and the disproportionate impacts borne by BIPOC communities, in particular health implications. The NC Student Environmental Education Coalition (SEEC) invited our Executive Director, Veronica Oakler, to speak on an EJ Panel to students of the NC School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM) in April. SEEC engages with key environmental issues and inspires youth to take action for a cleaner world, for all.  The panelists discussed the current state and future of environmental justice in NC and beyond, and the role of today's students for a better tomorrow! We spent a lovely Sunday in April with the Ethical Humanist Society of the Triangle to discuss opportunities for their membership to get involved in Environmental Justice advocacy, specifically focused on how their group can contribute to the development of our "Community Toolkit". Thank you for the warm welcome, lively discussion, and enthusiasm in our work! Upcoming Clean Water for NC Engagements! Clean Water for NC is revamping our Community Toolkit to provide resources you can use to advocate for your neighborhood, learn about environmental justice and issues, and protect your rights for a clean environment regardless of time, funding, or previous knowledge. We will be hosting listening sessions in June and have plans for in-person events in Garysburg and Durham, as well as online options to hear better from community members, what would be helpful. Take the "Community Toolkit" survey today! Thank you to everyone who helped make these events possible and for inviting us to participate! If you'd like a member of our team to speak with your group, please fill out our General Inquiries form!


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  • Developing the Community Toolkit: A Grassroots Approach to Meaningful Environmental Advocacy

    Last chance to participate in giving feedback on your needs and interests as we build our Community Toolkit! We will not be having the virtual session, so please make sure to submit your perspectives via our Survey down below or email us at info@cwfnc.org with an extended deadline of Fri 8/12. North Carolina communities have experienced years of limited opportunities to participate in state officials decision-making processes for environmental policy and permitting. This has been particularly difficult for historically marginalized and underserved communities under traditional power dynamics. It’s not to say that there are no opportunities to engage in state actions as a member of the public, just that there are some significant limitations. To promote all community voices, Clean Water for NC is revamping our Community Toolkit to provide resources you can use to advocate for your neighborhood, learn about environmental justice and issues, and protect your rights for a clean environment regardless of time, funding, or previous knowledge.  We want to hear from YOU about what your needs are in being connected to resources and tools. Share your preferences, wants and needs by responding to our 15-question Community Toolkit Survey TODAY! Everyone who submits a survey will be entered into a drawing for a $25 Visa Gift Card. We will also be holding Listening Sessions over the summer.  Stay tuned for more information by signing up to our email list.


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  • Empower Yourself With DEQ’s Community Mapping System!

    Clean Water for NC video tutorial for DEQ's Community Mapping System The NCDEQ Community Mapping System has a variety of features that can help you better understand what facilities, pollution sources, and information are available within an area! As part of our Community Empowerment Program, Clean Water for North Carolina has released two tutorial videos for the mapping system. Part 1 is an overview of the main mapping system, its layers and reporting features. Part 2 illustrates how to access and use the map’s Environmental Justice Tool. Read more about our Community Empowerment work in our newest edition of Clean Currents! Some useful features of the mapping system include the “Facility, Permit, and Incident Layers” list, as it has several map layers, such as air quality permit sites, animal feeding operations, coal ash structural fills, hazardous waste sites, underground storage tank incidents, and more. You can click on many individual facilities to access their permit files and ownership information. Another list, “Environmental Layers,” provides three options for selection, including NCDEQ’s selection of “Potentially Underserved Block Groups” from 2019, conservation areas, and flood zones in the state. Meanwhile, if you click on the map on a census block, the Environmental Justice Tool will open, which provides information on the map area’s facilities, and sensitive receptors (like nursing homes or schools), and demographics in comparison to the state. The tool also provides health information, such as heart disease deaths, birth rates, and asthma. The mapping system is on its second version, Version 1.0 after its beta release. It includes some updates and improvements based on community feedback. Stakeholder feedback is still being accepted on the tool, with a survey accessible on DEQ’s website. Community engagement is crucial to further develop this mapping system, so we at Clean Water for NC hope you’ll comment and push it to improve! Participate in DEQ's Community Mapping System Survey! Learn more about helpful tools and online resources at our Community Tools page!


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  • REPORT: “Advancing Well User Protections Through Policy”

    Clean Water for NC is celebrating World Water Day this year with the release of our new report "Advancing Well User Protections Through Policy"! Read Our Report!   This year's theme for International World Water Day 2022 is Groundwater: Making the Invisible Visible. Acknowledging the importance of groundwater and the services it provides to individuals across the globe is essential to developing protective well user protection policies, including policies for North Carolina's nearly 3 million private well users! With assistance from NC Well Water Working Group members, UNC's Superfund Research Program, NC Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ) and NC Department of Health and Human Service (NC DHHS) officials, we outlined the case for two well user protection proposals: 1. Increase Funding, Scope & Accessibility of the Bernard Allen Fund 2. Require Well Testing Prior to Real Estate Transactions We hope you find this report insightful and inspiring. Our team looks forward to continuing to develop these policy recommendations before introducing them to some "legislative champions" in Raleigh! Did you know that North Carolina has the second largest population of private well users in the U.S.? Not only that, but there are no federal protections for these individuals - it is complete up to private well users to ensure the safety of their drinking water. What can you do to advocate for well user protections in your own community? Reach out to your state representatives and urge them to support policies that promote safe drinking water protections for North Carolina well users Visit our Well User Protection page to learn more about your county's well program. (Your county's Environmental Health Director is your local resource for everything "wells" - they are there to assist you!) Connect with Clean Water for NC staff about any questions or concerns you have about your private well


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  • Celebrating 50 Years of the Clean Water Act

    This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, our nation's landmark water protection legislation that aims to maintain healthy surface waters, ensure the health of ecological resources, protect human health, and restore impaired waters. It provides all individuals within the United States the right to waterways that are clean, biologically intact, and safe for use. Federal authority for enforcement lies with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which gives states and tribes the tools and guidance necessary to protect and maintain healthy waterways in cooperation with federal government agencies. This cornerstone legislation was signed into law by President Nixon on October 18, 1972, with the main goals of restoring and maintaining "the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s water,” eliminate pollutant discharges and provide for the “protection and propagation of fish, shellfish, and wildlife” and “recreation in and on the water.” President Nixon signs the Clean Water Act into Law, October 18th 1972. Source: Science History Institute “The Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 — the modern Clean Water Act — established a national commitment to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters. The Clean Water Act has been instrumental in improving the health of rivers, lakes, and coastal waters. It has stopped billions of pounds of pollution from fouling the water, and dramatically increased the number of waterways that are safe for swimming and fishing.” Learn more about the history of the Clean Water Act: “A Brief History of the Clean Water Act”, from PBS’s NOW Robust protection of our nation's surface waters came under act attack in 2020 when the Trump administration dramatically reduced the amount of U.S. waterways receiving federal protection under the Clean Water Act in a bid to comply with industry interests and fast-track oil and gas pipelines. Of the many changes introduced by Trump's EPA, perhaps the biggest and most contentious was the controversial move to roll back federal pollution limits in wetlands and smaller waterways. All together, Trump gutted protections for 25% of surface waters in the country. The tides changed once again in 2021 when newly elected President Joe Biden announced his plans to undo the Trump-era rule and restore protections to streams and wetlands. While we await a formal rule proposal by the Biden administration, the 2015 Obama-era "Clean Water Rule" has been reinstated in the interim. This law provides a blanket definition of "Waters of the United States" (WOTUS), allowing protections to approximately 60% of America's surface waters. Wetlands in North Carolina. Source: Department of Environmental Quality We love clean water and know you do, too! Keep up-to-date with all our work with communities to protect and restore North Carolina's beautiful water resources. Sign up today to receive our newest edition of Clean Currents to learn about our Water Justice & Polluter Accountability programs, membership & volunteer opportunities, and how YOU can become a clean water advocate in your own community. Sign up to receive our quarterly Clean Currents Newsletter! Our NC Department of Environmental Quality's Division of Water Resources is responsible for ensuring safe drinking water in accordance with the Clean Water Act. The Division issues pollution control permits, monitors permit compliance, and carries out enforcement actions for violations of environmental regulations. Help protect the waters of North Carolina by getting informed and getting involved! Sign up to receive Division of Water Resources Press releases. Information on meetings regarding rulemakings, surface water quality standards, and committee meetings Sign up to receive information on draft permits for a proposed industry. Public notices straight to your inbox about opportunities to speak out and how to provide comments to the Division  Check out River Network's comprehensive Clean Water Act overview for community manuals, toolkits, and much more!


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