Catawba Riverkeeper in Belmont, North Carolina
Donna Lisenby is the Catawba Riverkeeper and a leader in the Waterkeeper Alliance, an international environmental organization that supports the work of more than 140 local watershed advocates patrolling and protecting local water bodies and standing up for clean water. Donna is a fierce advocate for the public health and safety of the Catawba River, which supplies drinking water to nearly 2 million residents in North Carolina and South Carolina.
In 2004, after discovering that many Wal-Mart Stores were illegally storing toxic chemicals in the parking lots and outdoor garden centers and allowing these poisons to leak into storms drains connected to the Catawba River, she took action.
Even after beginning a public blog and media campaign to force Wal-Mart to clean up its act, she said that “it took months of phone calls from me to get any response at all.” Wal-Mart Corporate never responded, but Donna did succeed in pressuring local Wal-Mart managers to move these dangerous chemicals into safer containment facilities, and she continues to send volunteers to Wal-Mart stores across the area to make sure that these chemicals are not contaminating the river.
Donna says, “Of all the industries I have worked with as Catawba Riverkeeper, including power and oil, I have never found a company to be as blatantly non-responsive and unconcerned about the public health as Wal-Mart.”