Southerland bill aims to gain accurate information to clean up Pigeon River

March 19, 2008

Southerland bill aims to gain accurate information to clean up Pigeon River

March 20, 2008 — The full Senate has approved legislation sponsored by Senator Steve Southerland (R-Morristown) that would provide greater accuracy in reporting water quality on the Pigeon River.  Southerland has fought to have the water tested to more accurately measure the amount of industrial pollution that is flowing into Tennessee from the Blue Ridge Paper Mill.  The mill, or its predecessor, has been considered to be a primary source of dioxin and particulate matter pollution that has been discharged into
the Pigeon River.

“This bill will be a big step forward in receiving the information we need to clean up the Pigeon River,” said Senator Southerland.  “It will enable us to finally get a clear picture of the pollution level flowing into Tennessee from Haywood County, North Carolina through the Pigeon River before it is diluted by other tributaries where the test is currently taking place.”

The Morristown Senator passed similar legislation in 2006, but the bill was not approved in the House of Representatives after administration officials told lawmakers that the testing could be done without legislation.  The testing changes, however, did not move forward.

Southerland said the legislation requires that a test must be conducted in the Pigeon River within one quarter mile of the border.  This will assure that any emissions from the paper mill are recorded accurately.  The bill requires the test must be taken in the center of the river in order to assure the results are not skewed by other environmental factors along the shoreline.   The measure further requires that the sample may only be drawn at a time when the generators from the paper mill are up and running.  Finally, the water sample drawn from must include both the apparent and true color standards established by the EPA.

“We believe that this testing will make a tremendous difference in giving us the most accurate information about pollutants in the river.  I am pleased our State Senate has
approved this bill,” Southerland concluded.

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