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Environmental group: Haw River is one of nation's most endangered

Posted April 9, 2014

— An environmental advocacy group has listed North Carolina’s Haw River among the most endangered in the country, saying polluted runoff threatens drinking water supplies and recreational activities along the waterway.

According to the list released Wednesday by American Rivers, pollution is “choking” the Haw and putting the drinking water supply for up to 1 million people at risk. The Haw River ranked ninth on the list.

The Haw River flows 110 miles from the north-central Piedmont to the Cape Fear River, just below the Jordan Lake Reservoir. The river and its watershed provide drinking water to hundreds of thousands of people living in Greensboro, Burlington, Chapel Hill, Cary and Durham.

The main threat to the river is caused by polluted runoff, or rainwater that picks up pollution as it flows over roads and parking lots, and sewage leaking from outdated and overtaxed water pipes, the group said. The pollution has caused large algal blooms in Jordan Lake, which impacts the health of people and fish.

"The river has been under the threat of stormwater pollution and wastewater pollution for a while, and we've had an opportunity to deal with that," Peter Rabbe, the North Carolina Conservation Director for American Rivers, said. "Unfortunately, we've been delaying the cleanup plan for the Haw River mainly because I think folks think it's only about Jordan Lake. That's just not true, it's really an issue for the entire watershed."

The General Assembly passed the “Jordan Lake Rules” in 2009 to cut pollution and runoff flowing into Jordan Lake from upstream sources by 35 percent, but in 2013, the state Senate passed a bill that repealed the rules for everyone in the Jordan Lake watershed.

Developers and some municipalities have also discussed installing 36 mixers into Jordan Lake to attempt to reduce algae.

"The circulators are not necessarily the best idea. You would only go to something like that if you've given up on cleaning the lake and only want to treat the symptoms," Rabbe said. "If we actually go to the center of the problem and deal with the pollution, we can help restore this resource for the whole area."

Elaine Chiosso, the Haw Riverkeeper for Haw River Assembly, said in a statement Wednesday that the General Assembly should implement the original "Jordan Lake Rules."

“The clock started ticking on the state and federal mandate to clean up the pollution in the river and Jordan Lake back in 2002, when it made the federal ‘Impaired Waters List’,” she said. “It took seven more years to draft and pass these rules in 2009, and since then the state’s legislature has been delaying and weakening them. Clean water is essential to our lives and communities. It's time to implement the full rules, now.”


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  • Bridget, NC Conservation Network Apr 9, 2014

    It's so important to remember that the Haw River can be saved and restored to being a beautiful and thriving recreational destination for many, as well as a tributary of the drinking water in Jordan Lake. The sources of pollution must be addressed, but our state leaders are instead seeking to only treat the symptoms. The SolarBee mixer experiment didn't work in a smaller lake in Cabarrus County and it's unlikely to work here. By the time legislators are forced to go through with clean-up plans, the Haw River and Jordan Lake will be in far worse shape than they are today -- which means they'll cost more to restore to health. The SolarBee mixers are a waste of time and resources. Reinstate the Jordan Lake Rules today!

  • balog Apr 9, 2014

    View quoted thread

    The solar bees DO NOT clean up pollution - they merely areate the water at the foot waters of these sheds into jordan lake, they dont keep pesticides, poisons, herbicides, engine fluids, etc. from entering the water sheds that ultimately go into our resivoirs. And with the rate of developement over the natural wetlands (see 751 south project) we are seeing these natrual filters going away at alarming rates.

  • Eq Videri Apr 9, 2014
    user avatar

    Folks, we need to clean up and protect Jordan Lake, which eventually will supply drinking water for half a million North Carolinians.

    And a few oversized pool scrubbers won't do it.

  • Super Hans Apr 9, 2014

    View quoted thread

    I certainly see nothing wrong with government. Would you prefer anarchy? This "You Can't Tell Me What To Do" rancher has done everything to escalate the situation to where it is now. I'll take a desert tortoise over his ilk any day of the week. Viva La Federal Government!

  • lewiskr45 Apr 9, 2014

    View quoted thread

    To be fair, sometimes environmentalists are extremists and skew facts for their own gain. I agree with you though, peer reviewed science journals are the best at conveying fact and showing the truth though the scientific method.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Apr 9, 2014

    View quoted thread

    White papers published in peer-reviewed science journals are the foundation of The Scientific Method. You seem to understand part of the process, so I’m not sure why you don’t follow through? Do you see that some findings conflict with a Christian creationist’s color-glossy brochure? Do you dismiss 97% of the world’s Climate Scientists who say that man-made global warming is happening...and increasing?

    Dishonest people are everywhere, but the scientific community is the only place where they are truly held accountable. If you seek the truth...there is no process...that is more reliable than Science.

  • raleighindependent Apr 9, 2014

    Why would not do everything possible to keep our waters clean?

  • rduwxboy Apr 9, 2014

    Governor McCrory already has a plan in place. He's ordered up these million dollar, big solar powered water mixers from a friend. Sounds to me this story is much to do about something already being addressed.

  • Alan Osborne Apr 9, 2014
    user avatar

    HI_I_AM_WADE ...You could not have said it any better!!!

  • for the people Apr 9, 2014

    ALL administrations should legislate protective and common sense laws to protect our one and only environment. its drinking water for lots of folks that is at risk. the current administraion, despite what everyone might think about the previous years, is failing the citizens when it comes to the environment. folks need to take a step back and check their dislike for al gore or whoever else you associate with the environment and see the the current assembly has a responsibility and an opportunity to serve the citizens of this great state.