Lecture provides insight into environmental impacts on water

Eddie Fitzgerald
New Bern Sun-Journal

Clark Wright Jr. said he remembers vividly as a child playing in the dirt, wandering through woods, riding his bicycle, enjoying the outdoors.

But he said today children seemed better attuned to global environmental impacts.

“Kids today can tell you about the Amazon and the rain forest,” he said. “But they can’t tell you when they went out in the woods alone or lay in a field and listened to the wind.”

Without that early connection with nature, Wright said he probably would not have become a successful environmental attorney who practices law in New Bern, a rock climber and a hiker who completed the Appalachian Trail.

Wright was speaking on “Troubled Waters: Issues and Politics of Eastern North Carolina’s Waters” during a Rothermel Foundation lecture Sunday at First Presbyterian Church.

“In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught,” Wright said, using a 1968 quote from Baba Dioum, an environmentalist.

Although great strides have been made to conserve water and protect it, there are still environmental hotspots from nitrogen and phosphorous runoffs into streams and rivers caused in large part from homeowners’ animal agriculture to golf courses.

Fifteen years ago, the state limited the amount of nitrogen that could be discharged into rivers and streams by 30 percent, Wright said.

Large factories and farms are highly restricted and monitored when discharging water into streams and rivers, but nonpoint source discharges, like water run off from a golf course or someone’s roof onto a driveway are still not regulated.

Using charts, Wright showed that nitrogen discharges in the Neuse River from Durham to Havelock still spike and it is usually caused by storm water run off. Although some of the highest spikes were along the Trent River, there were also a lot of animal farms upstream beside that river, he said.

About $300 million has been thrown at the problem over the past 15 years, and yet nitrogen discharges have been reduced, a problem still exists, Wright said.

“Point sources (factories, commercial enterprises) are doing their part,” he said.

To correct the problem, it would take better management practices when it came to storm water runoff, Wright said.

“Education is the key,” he said. “…A way out might be kids playing in the dirt, wanting to conserve a species or beautiful areas. It all goes back to education. …You can’t love something until you understand it.”

Copyright 2012 New Bern Sun-Journal

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