Meeting to discuss Pigeon River water quality scheduled

Cocke County Mayor Crystal Ottinger has announced the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Water Resources will conduct an online public hearing 6 p.m., Wednesday, April 14 to review proposed amendments to the Blue Ridge Paper Products effluent discharge permit.

Public comments will be accepted through April 30.

The permit sets limits and guidelines to the discharge of industrial wastewaters into waters of the state. Blue Ridge Paper has requested renewal of its discharge permit for its facility located in Canton, NC into the Pigeon River.

Revisions to the permit include changes in current monitoring requirements and removal of a color variance. North Carolina environmental officials agree with the removal of the color variance, based on improved stream conditions and conclude the variance is no longer necessary.

“Our local waterways are an essential part of our environment and economy as well as one of our greatest assets. They are too precious to pollute. Cocke Countians have fought hard for years to ensure that folks downstream of the papermill have access to a safe and clean river,” said Ottinger. “We cannot go backwards where the health of our waterways are concerned. I have called on multiple advocacy groups, state and federal elected officials and I am calling on each and every citizen of Cocke County. I am asking that anyone who is willing to please send in a public comment and demand advancements in the water quality of the Pigeon River. We must do all that we can to protect it.”

The hearing will be held remotely. Members of the public can access the hearing, and may participate online or by phone.

Registration must be completed by noon, Wednesday, April 14. For online registration issues, call 919-707-9011 or email peter.johnston@ncdenr.gov by the registration deadline.

Public comments may be emailed with “Blue Ridge Paper Products” in the subject line to; publiccomments@ncdenr.gov.