Program Plus

Focus On...Water Quality

Program Description

To the average homeowner, the chemical fertilizer that will be keeping the grass growing this summer may mean more trips through the yard with the mower. To the fishermen on the Neuse River, however, it means fewer healthy fish to catch.

Focus On..Water Quality calls North Carolina's attention to terms like "nonpoint source pollution," "nutrient loading" and "sedimentation." In a panel led by North Carolina Now's Shannon Vickery, four experts from North Carolina's universities and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources discuss the status of North Carolina's streams, rivers, lakes and coastal waters and how every person contributes to water purity.

Joining Vickery are Coleen Sullins, section chief of the Division of Water Quality at NC DENR; Richard Whisnant, specialist in environmental law from UNC-Chapel Hill; Dr. Joseph Ramus, expert in marine ecology and wastewater management at Duke University; and Dr. Stanley Riggs, researcher in coastal systems and wetlands at East Carolina University.

To springboard the discussion, clips of North Carolina Now features on water pollution introduce the audience to the stressors on North Carolina's water resources. Thomas R. Linden, M.D., Glaxo Wellcome Distinguished Professor of Medical Journalism at UNC-Chapel Hill's School of Journalism and Mass Communication, collaborated with North Carolina Now producer Julia Cox on four features about water pollution between September 2001 and March 2002. Students from Linden's fall 2001 Medical Reporting for the Electronic Media course and spring 2002 Science Documentary Television course decided on topics, researched the background, set up interviews and wrote the scripts for the features, while UNC-TV videographers filmed and edited the final pieces.

Journalism master's student John Kondis and medical journalism master's graduate Tania Zeigler produced the first two features on the Neuse River and Lake Waccamaw. In March, Steve Lyerly, who graduated from the School of Journalism in May and Gretchen Decker, a current journalism master's student, produced the features on hog farming and straight piping of home sewage.

The panel discussion begins with issues involving nonpoint source pollution--pollution from various, nonspecific sources. Issues include storm water management, dangers of nonpoint source pollution and how the average citizen can help control pollution. Panelists also discuss point source pollution, or how industries contribute to polluting the water. In addition, Dr. Whisnant reveals facts about laws regulating industry pollution and how extra measures to prevent pollution are being researched for livestock farms.

Will North Carolina have enough water in the future? That is the next topic of discussion, and the four experts will discuss the different threats to North Carolina's water resources and what agencies are doing to try to protect them. Issues such as disappearing wetlands and threatened river basins, along with water conservation highlight the latter part of the program.

While water pollution is not the central subject of every household conversation, Focus On...Water Pollution creates some food for thought. Because water is so plentiful, few people think about it disappearing. But as more development covers small watersheds, more chemicals seep into our groundwater, and more rivers like the Haw and the Neuse become overloaded with sediment and poisons, North Carolina's water resources might continue to erode.