Clean Water Group Holds Funeral for Pigeon River

They are holding a funeral for the Pigeon River in Newport on Friday, to draw attention to two public hearings next week on the new permit for the North Carolina paper mill that has been polluting the river for 100 years.

Clean Water Expected will have people in black dress, with a coffin, and a eulogy for the Pigeon River will be offered. The group argues that the new permit will mean no more improvements to the river and the public hearings are "do or die." The funeral will be at 5 p.m. at Gateway Park.

The public hearing will be at Cocke County High School on Monday at 6 p.m. If you want to sign up to speak, you should be there at 5 p.m. Another hearing will be held in Waynesville, N.C. the following day.

The protests and opposition is being organized by Clean Water Expected, a grassroots group from Cocke County, started by river guides. The paper mill has been operating under a variance issued by the North Carolina Division of Water Quality, which sets standards for the company. The company argues it is meeting the standards and the variance is no longer needed.

There is a thriving rafting industry on the Pigeon River along side I-40 in Hartford, in Cocke County. The issue has long been the color of the river, as its small size does not do enough to dilute the brown effluent from the mill on the North Carolina side of the river.

The mill was operated for decades by Champion Paper, then sold to Blue Ridge Paper Co. The current owners are Evergreen Packaging, headquarter in New Zealand.