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Originally published: 2014-03-10 12:35:12
Last modified: 2014-03-10 12:35:58

Blue Ridge Environmental Defense celebrates 30 years

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League celebrates its 30th anniversary on March 15.

BREDL is a regional, community based, nonprofit environmental organization.  

The organization began in March 1984 when 50 merchants and homemakers, farmers and teachers met at the Mission House of the Holy Trinity Church to organize the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League.

Boone and Glendale Springs women gathered and began opposing Ashe County's site for the U.S. High Level Nuclear Waste dump.

The groups merged and Watauga County became Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League's first chapter in 1986, gathering 20,000 signatures opposing the dump.

Five hundred and fifty letters of protest were sent from several North Carolina counties to the North Carolina state representatives opposing this dump.

With Janet Zeller as lead strategist, BREDL's goal was to educate local communities, governments, schools, churches, civic groups and media on the dangers of radioactive waste storage and waste transport.

In 1986, North Carolina was chosen as a site for the eight state Southeast Low Level Radioactive Waste Compact, which BREDL opposed for 14 years. During this time, BREDL gained more support and chapters.

In 1999, the North Carolina Legislature withdrew North Carolina from the Southeast Low Level Radioactive Waste Compact.

North Carolina citizens' opposition to nuclear waste in North Carolina gained momentum, as citizens became further educated on the problem, according to BREDL, and the number of BREDL chapters continued to grow.

From 1986 to 1993, the Watauga chapter raised almost $10,000,  which was critical for BREDL to continue its work.

More than 200 individuals and groups donated items for fundraising. Art objects were sold, three piano concerts by John Ferguson were held and raffle tickets, buttons, bumper stickers, baked goods and car washes also raised funds and community awareness, according to Sandy Adair, a BREDL member.

BREDL chapters continued to grow. Now, 30 years later, there are 120 chapters in five different states.

Zeller, her husband, Lou, and BREDL continue responding to communities which are facing environmental issues.

"With impeccable research, BREDL educates and empowers affected communities, which are often poor, rural areas. BREDL assists these communities in their battles against health and safety issues that threaten their land and families," Adair said.

BREDL continues to fight issues through nuclear, safe energy, clean air, hydrofracking, clean water and zero waste campaigns.

BREDL's work is more necessary now than ever, according to Kate Dunnagan, BREDL's development director.

Across the Carolinas, BREDL chapters work for environmental justice, keeping mega-dumps, polluting industries and fracking out of communities whose land and lives are at risk, she said.

This year, BREDL will hold a community fracking forum for people whose communities could be affected and will continue to hold the state government accountable to the people of North Carolina, BREDL officials said.

A new addition to BREDL's website is being launched in honor of the league's 30th anniversary. The page features a series of "BREDL Moments," stories written by members, volunteers, staff and executive committee members during the years, sharing their memories of BREDL's greatest grassroots victories.

BREDL is also planning to host a traveling tour of Repertory Theater, street protests and civil disobedience trainings this summer across the service region in the Southeast.


Those who are interested in becoming involved in BREDL's mission, can visit or call (919) 417-4939 for more information.