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Address

Mailing Address:

Land Use and Environmental Services Agency
2145 Suttle Avenue
Charlotte,
NC 28208

Office Location:


2145 Suttle Avenue
Charlotte,
NC 28208

MAP

Hours: Mon-Fri 8 a.m - 5 p.m.

Contact

General Information
311 (704-336-7600 from outside the county)

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ 2016 ​​​​​​​State of the Environment Report

The State of the Environment Report (SOER) is an informative communication tool used to benchmark our region's air, land, water, and waste conditions. Released every two years since 1987, the report is a long standing tradition in the spirit to remain transparent and ​accountable to the public. Identified strategies and conclusions presented throughout the report should be incorporated into the policy forming process that helps define our pioneering community.​


Read the State of the Environment Report

The report is divided into four chapters: Air, Land, Water, and Waste. Click the icons below to explore individual chapter of the report or continue further down on this page to learn more about the critical issues.

LAND 16WATER 16WASTE 16​​

​How to read the infographics

​Each chapter includes an infographic divided into three sections. The top third shows areas of progress, the middle third shows areas that need improvement, and the bottom third lists ways you can help Mecklenburg County's quality of life.



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​Healthy air is essential for residents to enjoy a full quality of life. There are six federal health-based air quality standards for criteria pollutants: Carbon Monoxide (CO); Lead (Pb), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), Ozone (O3), Particulate Matter (PM), and Sulfur Dioxide (SO2). The Charlotte region has historically failed to comply with the federal standard for ozone. Currently, Mecklenburg County narrowly meets the standard for ozone with a preliminary 2016 compliance value of 70 parts per billion (ppb). This is the first time since 1997 that all six standards are within the margin of success. Future efforts led by the Air Quality divi​​sion of LUESA​ will continue to prioritize the reduction of ozone throughout our community.

​Nearly 90% of ozone-forming air pollution in the County comes from mobile sources like cars, trucks, and construction equipment. To reduce mobile source pollution, Mecklenburg County offers incentive-based programs like their award-winning Grants to Replace Aging Diesel Engines (GRADE), and the Clean Commute Challenge. GRADE provides businesses and organizations with funding incentives to replace or repower older diesel-powered vehicles and equipment with newer cleaner-operating alternatives. In 2015, GRADE projects reduced 111 tons of ozone-forming air pollution in the region (585 tons have been reduced since GRADE began in 2007).

​By having a local air quality program, private businesses within Mecklenburg County benefit from access to enhanced compliance assistance and streamlined customer service that has resulted in a 94% compliance rate at permitted industrial sites. Residents also benefit from access to high-quality local air pollution data, and effective incentive programs, like GRADE, that are specifically tailored to local sources of air pollution. To maintain healthy air, continued support for a certified local air quality program is necessary.​

​According to data compiled by the Center for Applied Geographic Information Science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, forest and open space in Mecklenburg County has decreased from 64% in 1992 to 28% by 2011, and if trends held consistent is certainly even lower by 2016. Large, uninterrupted forested areas are critical to wildlife. Often adjacent development and roads isolate wildlife populations by presenting obstacles to their natural movement across the landscape. Increasing acreage of protected corridors would promote survival and biodiversity of valuable local natural resources. Habitat corridor protection can be accomplished in both the traditional sense of land acquisitions, and by implementing more innovative approaches such as expanding both Storm Water Improvement & Management (SWIM) and Greenway buffers, working with private landowners on linear conservation easements, and development of "natural" road under/over passes in a fashion similar to other infrastructure investments.

​Non-native invasive species present the biggest threat to areas that have been set aside as natural spaces within our community. Past agricultural practices, high use recreation, and travel corridors like I-85 have played​ a large role in how these species have been spread around the County. The Charlotte Region suffers as one of the most threatened and impacted areas in the entire United States, with invasives being present in 75% of the County’s natural areas. Riparian corridors, including Greenway parcels have a particularly high concentration of non-native invasive species. Native plants and animals are outcompeted, leaving the ecosystem less resilient to threats such as insects, diseases, and extreme weather. Funding for prevention (education/outreach) and eradication (field management) will help to protect Mecklenburg County’s natural resources.

​Recent environmental disasters and the responding national media coverage has vaulted water quality issues to a top priority among many concerned citizens. The Land & Water Resources division of LUESA, and Groundwater & Wastewater Services of the County's Health Department, are comm​itted to our community’s water quality. Assets include a robust monitoring and response program that is ready to meet all the challenges presented by our waterways, stormwater infrastructure, and groundwater resources.

​In 2016, 79% of stream miles were suitable for prolonged human contact. Thus leaving certain segments of our 3000+ miles of waterways (mostly in urban environments) with too high of bacteriological levels to be considered safe for human health. In an effort to improve conditions, staff physically walk an average of 300 miles of streams annually. This effort results in the inspection of hundreds of outfalls and other infrastructure, as well as the identification of numerous pollution sources. One of the top threats to our community's surface water comes from sanitary sewage, specifically overflows on or near multifamily housing units. Storm Water Services in collaboration​ with Charlotte Water, reaches out to property managers at local​ complexes. Staff conduct onsite investigations, provide education on preventing discharges, and outline the regulatory requirements of maintaining a private sewage collection system.

​632 surface water pollution incidents, and 160 identified soil or groundwater contaminations (9 of which were wells) have occurred in Mecklenburg County since the release of the 2014 SOER. Incidents that have garnered media attention have included: a major diesel spill reaching Little Sugar Creek near Midtown (Thanksgiving 2015), a chemical contamination found near NoDa (March 2016), and various no swim advisories on our local lakes. Staff provide 24-hour response to citizens, businesses, utilities, and fire departments within the County in an effort to limit pollution discharges and the potential impacts on water resources.​​​​
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A grant funded volunteer program piloted since the 2014 SOER report brings volunteer monitoring into several Charlotte Mecklenburg School (CMS) classrooms in the Little Sugar Creek Watershed. Students from First Ward and Elizabeth Traditional Elementary, Sedgefield Middle, and South Mecklenburg High Schools have worked with Storm Water Services and Queens University to document habitat, water quality, and biologic conditions in Little Sugar Creek. At the end of the school year, students were able to come together at Discovery Place with their families and share their findings. Funding to continue this program has not been obtained at this time.​

​The number of customers using Mecklenburg County's full service waste drop-off sites has risen sharply (from 487,442 in FY2014 to 621,000 in FY2016). Over 50% of the customers using the full service centers are commercial sector businesses. Additionally, many patrons using facilities are not from Mecklenburg County, but rather from other surrounding areas. The Solid Waste divi​​sion of LUESA is continuing to study future facility needs and disposal capacity to meet the demands created by population growth.

​The County's processing facility (MRF) has seen a 55% increase in contamination from curbside collected recyclables. This may be due to a combination of enthusiasm for recycling and inattention to the local instructions. Contamination also affects the yard waste program. Plastic bags get shredded and end up in finished compost and mulch products, resulting in a less desirable and harder to market products. Solid Waste staff continue to work diligently to find solutions to reduce contamination for these commodities.

​The prices paid for post-consumer recyclables has fallen significantly, weakening one way ​Solid Waste​ finances itself. Currently, LUESA is working to improve efficiency, address budgeting gaps, and assess funding mechanisms to meet the increased demands placed on the program.​


​Past Reports

If you are interested in learning more about how Mecklenburg County's State of the Environment reflects on our region, you are encouraged to read the 2010 SOER, the 2012 SOER, or the 2014 SOER​. If you are interested in exploring trends back to 1987, you are encouraged to read the 2008 SOER.


Our Thanks

Mecklenburg County is fortunate to have County staff with both the technical expertise and practical knowledge to​ produce the information contained in this 2016 edition of the State of the Environment Report. Please join us in thanking them for their determination and skill in producing this exceptional report! Icons used throughout the report are either in the Public Domain or were sourced from The Noun Project. Please view our attribution report here.

Address

Mailing Address:

Land Use and Environmental Services Agency
2145 Suttle Avenue
Charlotte,
NC 28208

Office Location:


2145 Suttle Avenue
Charlotte,
NC 28208

MAP

Hours: Mon-Fri 8 a.m - 5 p.m.

Contact

General Information
311 (704-336-7600 from outside the county)