Fresh concern has been added to the statewide and regional mercury advisories that already apply to Badin Lake Fish consumption. A recent analysis found elevated levels of PCB, a chemical formerly used as an industrial coolant and lubricant, in some of the lake’s catfish and large mouth bass.

Badin Lake is situated upstream of both Lake Tillery and Blewett Falls Lake, among others. The three are connected by the Pee Dee River on the lower end of the 21-county continuum that is North Carolina’s Yadkin-Pee Dee River Basin.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) discovered the contaminant levels after the Stanly County Health Department asked it to investigate. While the details of the advisory have changed, spokesperson Carol Schriber said the advice itself has not.

“Risks are still highest for children (under 15) and infants, as well as women of childbearing age, or women who are pregnant or nursing - not so much because it (PCB or mercury in fish) would harm them, but because if they are pregnant it could harm the fetus.”

The above groups should not eat any large mouth bass or catfish from Badin Lake. DHHS recommends that all others consume the fish no more than once per week.

Alcoa, a global aluminum pcb manufacturer, has been implicated as a possible source of the pollution. The company owns an aluminum plant on Badin lake; an aluminum smelter that is no longer in operation, also on the lake; and four hydroelectric dams above the lake on the Yadkin River.

The Alcoa dams are up for relicensing by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), but the company must first obtain Division of Water Quality (DWQ) certification from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)

John Dorney, development unit supervisor with DENR, said that DENR has to come up with an answer before a public hearing to discuss the relicensing issue on March 8, at which time his organization will either issue, deny or put a hold on DWQ approval. A formal decision to grant or deny must be made by May 8, or the state’s right to make such a decision will be waived.

“I don’t think it’s important. Studies are studies. Science is science. What’s important is who analyzes that data, what did data show. I don’t care if Progress Energy did the studies, I don’t care if the City of Rockingham did the studies. Data is data. The analysis is the most important thing.”

It is for this reason that pcbchinasaid the State of North Carolina DENR is “acting like a wholly-owned subsidiary of Progress Energy.”

Though Progress Energy’s dams are downstream of the Badin project, they are not anticipating involvement in the PCB issue.

“As part of our license and 401c, we will be required to comply with water quality standards in our certification as they relate to the operation in our facilities. Since we are not a source of PCBs, and we are not implicated, there is no reason to expect it to impact our license or our 401c,” said Pamela Oakley-Lisk, spokesperson for Progress Energy Carolinas.

According to Dorney, it is not certain that the pollution will affect Richmond County.

“It depends on the pollution level. It wouldn’t necessarily come downstream. Lakes filter all sort of things down and keep them in the lake. There’s a possibility, but in this case we’ve already made a decision with Progress Energy, but we may be headed to court on that.”

“We (DENR) will use the results of that (DHHS) survey and do further investigation for 401 water quality certification. We’re concerned about it too. We want to know where it is coming from. It may or may not be Alcoa.”

Progress Energy obtained the certification in the Fall of 2008 for the Tillery and Blewett dams.

According to Rockingham City Manager Monty Crump, the fact that the water from Badin lake is flowing right downstream to Richmond County is a red flag. The city is currently involved in mitigation with Progress Energy and DENR as to the terms of the already-issued Progress licensing.

“ We have possible contamination upstream. There are so many unknowns here. We want to go back to the drawing board.”

According to Crump, latest PCB findings shine an unfavorable light on the entire 401c certification process. For example, he claims that the DWQ certification Progress received last Fall was based entirely on data provided by Progress Energy.

Dorney said that he had “no idea” if that was true, but that he didn’t care.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License