ASHEVILLE, NC – September 20, 2022 – In a September 20th press release, local environmental groups recommended that improving stormwater management is one of the best interventions to reduce the pollution of the French Broad River. This echoes the opinion of the Asheville Stormwater Task Force’s January report of the importance to control and maintain runoff systems to keep the river healthy for recreation. Surface water quality standards for the French Broad River must meet the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Class B standards which include primary recreational activities of swimming where bodily contact with water is considered frequent. Booming construction and development, more frequent heavy rains due to climate change, and an aging stormwater system have resulted in more runoff from urban areas, more sewer overflows, and increased waterway sediment. These groups want to protect both the ecological and economic value of the French Broad River Watershed.
On June 7th, North Carolina water quality officials reported that a 19-mile section of the French Broad River from Long Shoals Road to Craggy Dam in Buncombe County is ‘impaired’ because of elevated E. Coli bacteria levels above Class B standards. The same section of the river was also found to be ‘impaired’ in 2021. E. coli, a fecal coliform bacteria, is a reliable indicator of the presence of other bacteria and pathogens that are harmful to human health. These bacteria come from stormwater runoff, livestock manure, failing septic systems, leaking sanitation sewer overflows and feces from wildlife and pets. Contact with or consumption of contaminated water can cause gastrointestinal illness and skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic, and wound infections. The most commonly reported symptoms are stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and low-grade fever.
The river has a strong economic presence around Asheville. It is estimated to bring in $3.8 billion annually according to a study by Western Carolina University economics professor Steve Ha and the French Broad River Partnership, a group of more than 50 organizations that want to improve the river’s health for environmental and economic benefits.
Hartwell Carson, the French Broad Riverkeeper, said in the release, “The recommendations from the task force are designed to filter out these pollutants before they reach our local waterways.” Traditional stormwater management is designed to move water quickly to the nearest stream while modern methods use more green infrastructure like planting trees and restoring wetlands, an economical approach to water management that can protect, restore and mimic the natural water cycle.
Listen to the full report below:
Contact: Dick Needleman, Health reporter, 103.3 AshevilleFM, firstname.lastname@example.org