Administrative Judge Phil Berger Jr. on Wednesday affirmed an earlier decision to allow a mining company to dump millions of gallons of wastewater into Blounts Creek in Beaufort County.
Martin Marietta wants to pump up to 12 million gallons of water a day from a proposed limestone quarry, which opponents say will destroy the popular fishing and boating spot near Chocowinity.
The decision states that petitioners that challenged the state Division of Water Quality permit failed to meet the burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence that their rights had been substantially prejudiced.
Opponents, including the North Carolina Coastal Federation and the conservation group Sound Rivers, formerly known as the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation, both represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, say the discharge will transform the swampy headwater habitat into a fast-flowing stream consisting primarily of mine wastewater.
“This state permit violates the core requirement of the Clean Water Act: to protect our waters as they exist naturally,” said SELC Senior Attorney Geoff Gisler. “We are disappointed that today’s decision ignores well-established law that protects places like Blounts Creek and gives citizens the right to enforce those laws. The people who love Blounts Creek deserve the protection that the law provides and that the state failed to uphold—we will now turn to the superior court to provide that protection.”
In his decision, Berger held that those who boat and fish on the creek could not challenge the state’s permit and that a local marina owners’ business was a hobby.
Opponents intend to appeal the administrative court’s decision to the Beaufort County Superior Court.