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EPA Denies Lower Cape Fear Reclassification

RALEIGH – The Environmental Protection Agency has denied a state request to classify part of the lower Cape Fear River as swamp waters.

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality announced the EPA’s decision late Tuesday.

The effort to reclassify the river began during former Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration and was approved by the state Environmental Management Commission in 2015. DEQ submitted the request to the EPA earlier this year. The requested reclassification was a move to lower water quality standards and reduce requirements on local businesses and governments with discharge permits.

The EPA cited technical details that were absent from the request, including failure to meet the state’s definition of “swamp water.” DEQ said the existing primary classification as Class C salt water will remain in place for all Clean Water Act purposes.

The request applied to about a 15-mile stretch of the river from Toomers Creek near Navassa south to Snows Cut.

Because of environmental concerns such as the presence of endangered species in the salt waters of the lower Cape Fear and ongoing regulatory issues related to emerging contaminants, DEQ said it intends to advise the Environmental Management Commission that the EPA’s disapproval letter should be the final action on this issue.

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The story was compiled by staff members of Coastal Review Online.