Flood Victims Cope With Toxic Coal Ash, Pigshit, And Donald Trump
Hurricane Florence is gone but the flooding is still very much an issue in the Carolinas and Virginia. Thirty-seven people are dead, and flooding has resulted in spills from multiple hog farm pigshit lagoons. And to make matters worse, the area is contending with Donald Trump attempting to do "empathy," for which there are no recovery funds available.
Escaping Deputies Leave Mental Patients To Drown In Van. No Jokes There.
In Horry County, South Carolina, two women being transported to a mental hospital drowned when the sheriff's van in which they were riding got caught in rising water, was forced off the road, and sank. The deputies attempted to unlock the rear of the van but were unable to. A statement from the sheriff's office said, "Despite persistent and ongoing efforts, floodwater rose rapidly, and the deputies were unable to open the doors," and by the time rescuers arrived, the deputies were stuck on top of the van, which had come to rest in a ditch.
The women were identified as Wendy Newton, 45, and Nicolette Green, 43; the sheriff's office says it regularly transports patients from the hospital in Loris, South Carolina, to a larger facility in Florence, because the Loris hospital doesn't have a mental ward.
"It's a courtesy they do," coroner Jerry Richardson said. "Sometimes you do the right thing and it ends up wrong."
It appears reports the women were shackled in the back of the van were incorrect. South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division spokesperson Thom Berry said Wednesday that they weren't in handcuffs or shackles. The two deputies transporting the women have been placed on leave while the patients' deaths are investigated. Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson also said it appears the deputies drove around road barriers and the investigation will look at why.
The women's bodies were recovered by divers Wednesday evening; Sheriff Thompson spoke to local station WPDE shortly afterward:
"We are sorry. We take a lot of pride in what we do. We work hard to protect and serve our citizens. We are just so very sorry this event has taken place," he said with tears in his eyes.
That's a different tone from a sheriff's office statement on Twitter in which an unattributed quote says the office was "pleased" with the performance of all agencies involved.
Update/Correction: Horry County is in South, not North, Carolina. Text updated, and Wonkette regrets the error.
Toxic Coal Ash And Pigshit, Oh My
The extremely heavy rainfall from Florence flooded large areas, of course, turning freeways into rivers and cutting off some areas by road. And as expected, that's bad news in areas where factory hog farms have huge lagoons of pigshit and urine that have become one with local waterways:
The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality said Tuesday that four open air lagoons that store hog waste have structural damage, up from two known pits whose retaining walls were compromised as of Monday.
The environmental agency said 13 lagoons are overflowing from heavy rainfall and 55 are close to the brim and could overflow if water levels continue rising.
Also, because three regional offices are closed due to the flooding, resulting in the evacuation, ahem, of employees, the department hasn't actually been inspecting any of the state's 3,300 pigshit lakes, and is instead relying on self-reporting from the more conscientious farmers -- at least, the ones who were able to take a look at the state of their pigshit containment systems. Since many farmers had to head for higher ground and haven't been back yet, the number of spills is only expected to increase. Many areas have been advised to boil all water used for drinking or brushing teeth, particularly in areas where old underground water pipes are susceptible to contaminated floodwater seeping through.
The nonprofit Waterkeepers Alliance, which monitors toxic horrors in waters around the country, said a Cape Fear "riverkeeper" had spotted two pigshit lagoons that had been "completely emptied" and dozens more that had been inundated. Happily, the worst of the solids sink to the bottoms of the lagoons, so isn't that reassuring?
The flooding has been disastrous for area farms, killing at least 3.4 million chickens and 5,500 hogs in North Carolina.
In preparation for the advancing storm, farmers were moving their swine to higher land, but the intensity of the flooding exceeded all expectations. The N.C. Pork Council said some of the hogs drowned in flood waters, and others were killed by wind damage to barns.
Gee, wonder if any of the farmers who pooh-poohed the flood levels were reassured by Rush Limbaugh's insistence that predictions of massive flooding were merely liberal exaggerations meant to give credence to climate change? Pfft. Pigshit floods, as if.
Another concern is coal ash, the toxic waste product of burning beautiful clean coal for electricity. The ash is full of heavy metals like arsenic, lead and mercury, but don't worry, probably not too bad, maybe!
Over the weekend Duke Energy reported that about 2,000 cubic yards of coal ash, the equivalent of about 140 dump truck loads, spilled out of a pond at an inactive power plant near Wilmington, North Carolina. An EPA official said the material spilled into a ditch that fed into another pond of water but did not reach the nearby Cape Fear River.
Here's the eroded containment pit at the L.V. Sutton Power Station, with the plastic liner barely holding and crap leaking from the pit, in a photo from Waterkeepers Alliance:
Waterkeepers also reports a volunteer monitor has found "multiple releases of coal ash from inundated ponds" at Duke's H.F. Lee plant near Goldsboro, North Carolina:
"Today we investigated, documented and collected water samples from multiple ongoing, active coal ash spills from HF Lee facility where 1 million tons of coal ash is now completely underwater. Half-mile Branch creek and the Neuse River flood waters are actively eroding the dam between the ponds and all three ponds are washing coal ash into the Neuse River," said Donna Lisenby, Global Advocacy Manager for Waterkeeper Alliance. "Coal ash will continue spilling every minute of every day from the HF Lee coal ash ponds until flood waters recede sometime later this week."
The alliance said the spill appeared far worse than another into the Neuse River following Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Duke's sloppy management of coal ash has been an ongoing slow-motion disaster for decades, so add another helping of toxic sludge to the pile.
Donald Trump Saw A Boat! In A YARD! WOW!
As if the state didn't have enough burdens, Donald Trump showed up yesterday in North Carolina where he attempted to do the "empathy" thing, and at least managed not to chuck any paper towels at anyone. But then he saw a great big sailboat that had come to rest in a guy's front lawn, and damned if he could think of anything else, because he is four years old.
"Is this your boat? Or . . . did it become your boat?" Trump asked the man who lived in the house where the boat was now inadvertently and incongruously docked.
No, it was not his boat, the homeowner replied, according to the pool report, which didn't identify residents by name.
Trump returned his gaze to the vessel, which was white with brown accents and balanced at a precarious angle.
"At least you got a nice boat out of the deal," he said, with a smile.
Trump simply couldn't stop thinking about the sailboat, because wow, a boat in a yard, you don't see that every day, do you?
He asked the crowd of reporters, residents and handlers who were escorting him on his tour of the post-Florence wreckage, "That boat is wiped out, or not?"
"Boat looks like it's okay," came a response from the gaggle.
"Wouldn't want to cross the ocean in it," Trump replied. The crowd laughed.
Gosh. Can you imagine it? A BOAT, motherfucker, a motherfuckin' BOAT!
Shortly after, a reporter asked him for his thoughts on what he had seen thus far.
"I think it's incredible, I think it's incredible," Trump said. "To see what we're seeing — this boat, I don't know what happened, but this boat just came here. And do you know whose boat that is? They don't know whose boat that is."
Trump is expected to appoint a blue ribbon commission from DHS to investigate the boat: Who owns it, how much it cost, where the boat was moored, did the boat have a nice interior, did people like the boat, will the boat still float, does the boat have a motor too, or just a sail, should the boat be in a parade, and could the boat come and live with him at the White House? Bet Barack Obama never had a boat like that.
The boat wasn't Trump's only concern, however. He also asked, during a briefing by a local official, "How is Lake Norman doing?" The official assured Trump Lake Norman was okay. Trump was clearly concerned about how wet the lake was, seeing as how this hurricane was "one of the wettest we've ever seen from the standpoint of water." So, a very wet lake. Trump added,
"I love that area," Trump responded, according to the pool account. "I can't tell you why, but I love that area."
Observers were quick to note one possible explanation for the president's interest in the area: a Trump National Golf Club is located on the shores of Lake Norman.
Gosh, that's a cynical take, that Trump would only be thinking about his property during a disaster. Maybe he just wanted to know if that boat he saw would float on Lake Norman. It looked like a really nice boat. Maybe a boat will wash up on Trump's lawn someday, you never know. Hey, I wonder if you could ride a pony on that boat?
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