I make the above statement to incite all Chatham County citizens to urge Speaker Hackney to make the clean up of Piedmont Rivers a top priority.

Last Sunday I took the opportunity to hear N.C. House Speaker Joe Hackney give a talk about North Carolina’s economy, fiscal projections, state savings ($780 million) and what kind of shovel ready projects the state might propose for some of President Obama’s federal recovery funds. To his credit, Joe also spoke of his support for making state buildings energy efficient.

Never the arithmetician, such talk about budgets sounds to me like the adults in the Charlie Brown TV Specials. Wah-WahWah-WahWahWahWah. I know it’s important, but critical matters often get obscured in the numbers used to justify whatever action or inaction is deemed “prudent.” But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

After his talk, Speaker Hackney took questions from the 100 or so people assembled to hear him at the Central Carolina Community College (CCCC) Multipurpose Room. I asked him when the state was going to help clean up the sewage effluent discharges from the Siler City Waste Water Treatment plant that are contributing to the quiet killing of the Rocky River, 88% of which is in Chatham County. He said that by and large these were matters for local jurisdictions and the state had contributed a fair amount of money already to assist with water and sewer treatment and hoped it would continue. Speaker Hackney ended with, “It is unlikely that there will be much of that sort of money in the climate we have right now.”

So, we’re going to allow the Rocky River to die,” I asked. Admittedly this was like throwing a fastball at his head, but I had to get his attention.

One nervous giggle betrayed the tension in the room.

Well sir, we’re going to follow the law,” Speaker Hackney replied flatly.

The Speaker invoked the law like it was the answer, when in fact, the law is the problem. It is the law that has permitted the deadly pollution of the Rocky River. Legal, yet criminal.

I’m a Democrat; and I’ve voted for Joe Hackney several times; and I want to support him in the future. Speaker Hackney, please use your considerable influence to help pass the rules that have been drafted to clean up Jordan Lake. These rules will affect Chatham’s only reservoir for many years to come. The health and economy of our region can be no better than the purity of its water, soil and air. This is a pivotal moment for you, Mr.Speaker, and Senator Bob Atwater. Please insist on and fight for strong regulations that will ensure a living, thriving watershed to nourish a clean future for Chatham County.

And I’d like to also address Republicans and Democrats who think they can undermine Speaker Hackney’s position in the legislature. Members of the Friends of the Rocky River, Friends of the Deep River and the Haw River Assembly are watching you, too. Joe can’t carry the burden all by himself; we know that. We expect all of you to put your shoulders to the wheel and spend some political capital on this issue. If you don’t, the Piedmont will suffer in innumerable ways.


In addition to upgrades of the Siler City Waste Water Treatment Plant and the Lake Jordan Draft Rules, Governor Bev Perdue and the legislature must begin developing a master plan for the restoration of the Upper Cape Fear River Basin. The Rocky, Deep and Haw Rivers are all critically impaired. Species are disappearing as I’ve documented in this column before. This should take on Manhattan Project urgency. As climate change heats and drys our region, we must jealously guard our water resources with vision, technical expertise and unwavering commitment.


Water crises are happening all over the country. The Colorado River which irrigates most of the nations fresh produce in California hasn’t reached its delta since 1982. It is over-allocated, yet Western population continues to grow. The Ogalala Aquifer beneath the Great Plains is being slurped up way beyond its recharge rates. Groundwater has already disappeared in some locations, and with it the farms and businesses it used to support. Las Vegas, which means “The Meadows”, was once home to one of the great artesian aquifers in the country. It was sucked dry in a few decades. And, it was all legal. The point is, that we in the NC Piedmont can no longer depend on the produce and the water used to grow it from distant points west.

Joe Hackney and his colleagues must show wisdom and vision now to avoid want and deprivation in the future. But Joe must know he has the support of his constituents to make a bold stand on our water supply. Call, write, or email Joe and support him in this stand!