Riley Lewis, who joined the staff of Coastal Carolina Riverwatch earlier this summer, is now the new White Oak waterkeeper.
Before joining Riverwatch, she was an AmeriCorps member in Wilmington and led citizen-science research on wetland and oyster health, conducted educational programming to school-age and university students, and provided field experience to environmental educators in local waterways.
“I am honored and excited to be your Waterkeeper. Ever since learning about the Waterkeeper organizations I have been inspired by their work,” Lewis said in a release.
The Coastal Carolina Riverwatch, or CCRW, board of directors selected Lewis to take on the role.
“Riley emerged from a pool of well qualified candidates for Waterkeeper because of her enthusiasm for our mission, her educational background, and her experience. I am delighted that she is on board at CCRW,” Rick Kearney, board president, said in a statement.
Lewis earned a bachelor’s in marine science from the University of South Carolina and a master’s in coastal and ocean policy from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Her background includes analysis of water quality on drinking water affordability and research of chemical pollutants along North Carolina’s coast.
“Having grown up on the Chesapeake Bay and lived by rivers my whole life I have a deep appreciation for our waterways and have always been motivated to protect them,” Lewis continued. “North Carolina’s coastal environment is constantly threatened by natural and manmade processes and these threats turn around and harm our communities. Water deserves the respect that we give each other and as Waterkeeper, I will advocate for this belief.”
The group said Lewis, as waterkeeper, will lead several initiatives that support its mission, to protect and enhance the waters, land, and communities of eastern North Carolina, including the “Pure Farms Pure Waters” campaign. Lewis will work with other waterkeepers and advocates to address the impacts of concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, which Riverwatch said subject North Carolina rivers to fecal contamination and pollute the air in surrounding communities.
“We are grateful to welcome Riley Lewis to our dedicated team of water quality advocates,” said Coastal Carolina Riverwatch Executive Director Lisa Rider. “Riley has a lot of experience with building community collaborative efforts that protect our community environment. She will be a role model for others wanting to do more to protect water quality in coastal North Carolina. Riley has the perfect combination of knowledge and skills, plus a passion that supports our mission.”
Coastal Carolina Riverwatch said it is engaged with several other projects aimed at protecting water quality, including participating in a two-year microplastics study in the New River. This work is in partnership with all waterkeepers in the state to provide information about the scope of North Carolina’s microplastic problem. Riverwatch’s Water Quality for Fisheries program addresses water quality impacts on North Carolina fisheries.