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@NCCapitol

House gives tentative approval to Jordan Lake cleanup delay

Posted July 24, 2013
Updated July 25, 2013

Jordan Lake aerial

— Some of the regulations recently put in place to clean up Jordan Lake would be delayed for three years under a bill the state House gave tentative approval to Wednesday night. 

Jordan Lake has been "impaired" by pollution, much of it extra nutrients feeding algae, since it was constructed by the federal government.

The so-called Jordan Lakes Rules, which are designed to fix those problems, have been the subject of debate for more than a decade. Jordan Lake provides drinking water and recreation in the Triangle, but much of the cost of cleaning up the lake will be incurred by communities in Triad region, where streams that feed the lake originate. 

Already, communities in Alamance, Guilford and Rockingham counties have paid for costs such as upgrading sewage treatment plants. But rules that would require other measures and potentially limit development in the lake's watershed have not gone into effect yet. Those provisions would be delayed until 2016 if Senate Bill 515 becomes law. 

While that delays the lake's cleanup, the bill is less sweeping than a measure that originally passed the Senate. Senators sought a measure that would have wiped out the Jordan Lake Rules and created a committee to redraw them. 

Still, the measure drew objection from lawmakers who said the rules should not be altered.

"We have an impaired drinking water source that's very important for 300,000 North Carolinians that will continue to be impaired," said Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford. 

Those pushing the bill say that the rules will hurt economic development in the communities that have to implement them, with little promise of environmental return on that investment. 

"There is no evidence at all that spending that kind of money is going to do one ounce of cleanup in the lake," said Rep. Rick Catlin, R-New Hanover.

Earlier in the day, Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, a former chairman of North Carolina's Sierra Club and the group's former national president, blasted his colleagues for setting aside $1.3 million in the state budget for a specific company's unproven lake cleanup technology. During debate over the rules themselves, McGrady observed that lawmakers seemed quick to take the word of engineers or businessmen. 

"But we don't always want to pay attention to the scientists," he said.

Science, he said, shows that, by delaying the rules, North Carolina will simply be giving pollution three additional years to build up in the lake.

But Rep. Pat McElraft , R-Carteret, countered that it wasn't development that posed the greatest risk to the lake. Rather, she said, buffer rules were creating natural areas that were attracting "critters" like raccoons and birds to roost – and defecate – near the waters. 

"Some of the pollution is caused by these critters," she said. "The buffers are enticing the birds."

The House voted 66-44 in favor of the rules delay. The chamber is scheduled to take a final vote Thursday. The measure would then return to the Senate for consideration.

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  • bcpii Jul 26, 2013

    To Seriously Anonymous, Four points: (1) the 2008 legislature authorized a Study of Storm Water. Rumors indicated it did show streams out in the woods are polluted, and buffers and SW retentions increased pollution. The Study has been lost.( I invite you to call DWQ and ask them where it is.) (2) Where else does human waste come from? ( Do you understand what the relevant pathogens of pollution are?) (3) 2006 we asked EMC to present a plan to find an fix any "failing septic tanks". Ignored. (4)EMC/ DWQ have obstructed use of DNA tests to trace Pollution, saying "it mixes in the ditch". Get you a DNA report and see if you believe that. Bill Price

  • perseusomega9 Jul 25, 2013

    There are basically 4 causes for water pollution: Industrial effluents - which DWQ says they have stopped (Good); Agriculture- which DWQ says they have stopped (Good); Human - which is controlled by Waste Treatment plants or Septic Tank Rules (Good); or Wildlife - with no control. To reduce pollution, the EMC pushes for more and bigger Buffer Rules = increasing Wildlife habitat = increasing Wildlife = increasing Wildlife waste = increasing nitrogen and fecal coliform = increasing pollution to the waters. So, EMC/DWQ Jordan Lake Rules = more pollution. We need some folks with common sense on these boards. Bill Price

    Um no

  • Come On_Seriously Jul 25, 2013

    "On the other hand, Algae blooms are caused nitrogen , not Gas, Oil and Grease,

    True, but not all pollution causes algae blooms, although there is quite a bit of nitrogen on parking lots and roads from fertilizer overspray, grass clippings blown off a yard into the street to 'disappear,' etc.

    Keep trying Bill.

  • Come On_Seriously Jul 25, 2013

    Sorry bcpii Bill,
    Your Human category does not encompass all human wastes- only the sewage. The problem that buffers control is that of runoff from rooftops, roads, parking lots, etc. The vegetation in this buffer slows stormwater and absorbs the nutrients in this runoff and allows the pollutants (mostly oil and other hydrocarbons from cars and equipment).

    Wildlife is a pretty minimal cause of pollution. By your logic, streams way out in the woods supporting lots of wildlife would be foul while streams in the middle of the city would be pristine. This is obviously not the case.

    The amount of wildlife waste due to their living in the 50 feet next to the stream is miniscule compared to the amount of runoff after even a small storm.

    You also seem to think that buffers are attracting wildlife rather than providing a minimal refuge for wildlife displaced by development.

    None of your '=' marks actually equal anything outside of the republican realm of ridiculousness.

  • bcpii Jul 25, 2013

    Some folks blame runoff from roads, parking lots, and businesses, for pollution.
    Interestingly, in 2006 we tried to get the EMC to use Clean Water Trust funds to install Gas, Oil, Grease absorbers in Storm water drains.. They weren't interested. On the other hand, Algae blooms are caused nitrogen , not Gas, Oil and Grease,,, and there is virtually no nitrogen on a parking lot or road,,,, except when the geese walk around on them.
    Bill Price

  • bcpii Jul 25, 2013

    There are basically 4 causes for water pollution: Industrial effluents - which DWQ says they have stopped (Good); Agriculture- which DWQ says they have stopped (Good); Human - which is controlled by Waste Treatment plants or Septic Tank Rules (Good); or Wildlife - with no control. To reduce pollution, the EMC pushes for more and bigger Buffer Rules = increasing Wildlife habitat = increasing Wildlife = increasing Wildlife waste = increasing nitrogen and fecal coliform = increasing pollution to the waters. So, EMC/DWQ Jordan Lake Rules = more pollution.
    We need some folks with common sense on these boards.
    Bill Price

  • perseusomega9 Jul 25, 2013

    As to the Jordan Lake issue, the solution is simple. The people receiving the water should be the ones that pay for the cost of any cleanup needed in the lake itself, and and expenses that other places have to bear.-whatelseisnew

    Why stop there, let's just make all those on the coast using the intercoastal and ocean as an economic engine pay the costs for all the pollution upstream. Seriously, do you people think these things through before you hit submit?

  • Ears to the Ground Jul 25, 2013

    The US EPA has already sent a letter to the NC General Assembly warning them not to delay the rules or they will have to come in and enforce. The EPA can only regulate the treatment plants so devopers and agriculture will get a free pass while local government are forced to pay all of the cost. I do not think the Greensboro and Burlington politicians know exactely what they are doing to themselves.

  • OmegaBaby Jul 25, 2013

    @whatelseisnew -
    "The people receiving the water should be the ones that pay for the cost of any cleanup needed in the lake itself, and and expenses that other places have to bear."

    The people in the triangle receiving this water DO pay for cleanup. They have to build sewer treatment plants and have buffers in place for DOWNSTREAM users of the water. It's like that all the way down the Cape Fear river to Wilmington. Everyone has to play by the same rules. Otherwise, the entire river system would just become one huge cesspool.

    Water rights are an important thing in this country. Just because you live upstream of me doesn't mean you're allowed to dump anything in the river with impunity.

  • floydthebarber Jul 25, 2013

    McElraft seriously believes birds and wildlife create more pollution than paved over developments and human-created runoff?? What kind of fantasy land without science do these republicons live in??? I just hope they don't do too much irreparable damage before my generation can come along to start the cleanup.

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