If there's one good thing about North Carolina's beleaguered textile industry, it's that most of the businesses that once tortured the Catawba River with little or no regulation aren't pouring pollution into our water like they used to.
I've heard county officials, local historians and long-time residents say the river used to change colors during the textile industry's heyday. And I don't mean from brown to light brown, I mean it turned bright orange and purple, among other colors.
So, it's no real surprise to learn that Pharr Yarns was recently cited for violating the Clean Water Act since it's an industry-wide tradition; however, it is astounding to learn the company was cited for 20 violations.
Now, a couple of years ago, I met the fine folks who run Pharr Yarns. (They're the same folks that transform McAdenville into Christmas Town USA every year, never charging the public a single penny.) Many of them have worked for Pharr Yarns all of their lives, just like their daddies did. The people I met are upstanding citizens who look out for their neighbors and their community.
Of course, the hunt for profits can make a person do or overlook things they normally wouldn't.
With that in mind, I'll tell you and I don't know for sure (they aren't talking now), I suspect the people who run Pharr Yarns never intended to do any harm to the river or anything else. At the same time, while their newest and fanciest facilities produce some of the most advanced fabric products on the planet NASA's a big fan their older facilities, still nestled in the heart of McAdenville, are as close to ancient as buildings get around these parts ... and perhaps they've outlived their use.
This article in the Charlotte Business Journal seems to speak to my hunch:
EPA has issued an administrative order requiring the company to submit and implement a plan to remedy the violations. State environmental enforcement officials assessed penalties for 20 violations of discharge limits in recent years. State officials also say the treatment plant may not be of suitable design or configuration to consistently adhere to discharge limits.
Catch a fleeting glimpse of the old plant in this video about Christmas Town USA:
A bit of trivia: Thomas Edison once visited McAdenville. What did he bring with him? Light in a bottle, of course. Local storytellers tell me people walked from as far as 50 miles away to see those light bulbs.