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More than 20 North Carolina students were recognized this week for projects that focus attention on air quality issues across the state. Sheila Holman, director of the state Division of Air Quality, presented awards for the agency’s annual AQ-IQ contest at a ceremony in Asheville. “Seventh-grade students from across the state worked in groups of up to four to make a poster, game, video or artistic project that highlighted an air quality problem and proposes a solution to that problem,” Holman said while presenting the awards at the Western North Carolina Air Quality Agency in Asheville.

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Did you know that blue crabs consistently rank at the top of North Carolina’s commercial fisheries, both in pounds sold at the dock and in the value of the landings? Here’s some other fun facts about this important species: A mature male crab is called a “jimmy” and is easily recognized by the brilliant blue shading on his shell and claws. Adult female crabs are called “sooks” and are distinguished by the rounded aprons on their underside and red tips on their claws – just like a woman would paint her fingernails.

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Even the most novice coastal angler is familiar with the fish that oinks and fits in the palm of your hand. More experienced anglers know that these fish can grow longer than a tall man’s forearm. Case in point, the latest state record pigfish certified by the state marine fisheries division measured 15 ½ inches long and weighed a whopping 2 pounds, 12 ounces. That beats the former state record pigfish by 8 ounces. Rocky Mount resident Jason Edwards caught the fish May 23 while fishing on a head boat about 30 miles southeast of Cape Lookout.

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Secretary van der Vaart took a tour of Selee Corporation’s headquarters in Hendersonville, NC last week. The ceramic filter manufacturer recently worked with DEQ’s Waste Reduction Partners to learn how to become proactive environmental stewards while also cutting their costs. Read about the visit in the Hendersonville Times-News: http://www.blueridgenow.com/article/20160707/NEWS/160709873

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Secretary van der Vaart recently visited the city of Shelby’s First Broad River Water Waste Treatment Facility to see the improvements that are being made after the city received a $10 million loan from the state. Read in the Shelby Star how the wastewater plant is being upgraded and how the state is working to ensure clean water in North Carolina: http://www.shelbystar.com/news/20160707/ncdeq-pleased-with-updates-to-first-broad-facility

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DEQ staff recently visited NC A&T University to hear how researchers have discovered methods of recycling coal ash to produce building materials. Read the details here in the Greensboro News & Record: http://www.greensboro.com/news/dan_river/scientists-at-nc-a-t-make-coal-ash-breakthrough/article_7a4ceadc-2c48-57e2-939e-da68234fe1cb.html

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A Burke County man now holds the North Carolina state record for skipjack tuna. Timothy Ray Street of Valdese hooked the 32-pound, 8-ounce-fish May 24 at the Rock Pile, a series of rock ledges in the Gulf Stream, about 23 miles out of Hatteras Inlet. The fish measured 37 inches fork length (tip of the nose to the fork in the tail) and had a girth of 25 inches. Street caught it using ballyhoo for bait on 80-pound test line. Timothy Ray Street of Valdese shows off his new state record skipjack tuna catch.

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