Local News

State: Ailing Falls Lake needs assistance

Posted May 15, 2008
Updated May 16, 2008

— Falls Lake has too much chlorophyll, which could lead to excessive algae choking off fish and other aquatic life, according to state environmental regulators.

Every two years, the state Division of Water Quality looks at all waterways in North Carolina to determine if they're up to environmental standards. The 2008 report, which is awaiting approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, lists Falls Lake as being "impaired."

"We're talking about nitrogen and phosphorous (causing the spike in chlorophyll)," division spokeswoman Susan Massengale said. "You get too much algae, and it will impair the ability of fish and smaller animals to get oxygen out of the water."

Regulators haven't determined the source of the excessive nutrients, she said, noting it could come from a combination of factors, such as fertilizer runoff, animal waste, runoff from nearby residential developments or Durham's wastewater treatment plant upstream.

Falls Lake serves as Raleigh's primary reservoir, but the nutrients don't currently threaten the city's water supply, said Dale Crisp, director of Raleigh's Public Utilities Department.

"Generally, it's the activities upstream that ... cause these problems," Crisp said. "I'm sure there will be a lot of discussion about this. We don't want it to get worse."

The state is looking at revising its management plan for the lake, Massengale said, which could mean more restrictions on nearby developments  and road construction and changes in the operation of Durham's wastewater treatment plant.

Durham officials said they are working with the state on the issue. Drastic changes to the treatment plant could have a huge financial impact on the city, they said.

"We want to have the best water (quality) levels possible, and on that level, people ought to be concerned," Massengale said.

Jordan Lake was on the "impaired" list in 2002 and 2006, and part of the lake remains on the latest list.


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  • whatelseisnew May 16, 2008

    It is just a ploy to run off some of the current inmates in Raleigh.

  • Vietnam Vet May 16, 2008

    I'm wondering just how Falls Lake could be ailing? It was just refilled from being almost empty...

  • whatelseisnew May 16, 2008


    Ah and who does the corp work for? Geez.

  • Boogalooboy May 16, 2008

    First of all, Stevie Wonder must have engineered the layout. If you had to commit harry karry by jumping off the bridge on 85 you would have to know where the creek bed runs, otherwise you would break both legs since it's so shallow when it's filled to the brim...

    The Eno feeds this from the northern Durham area. At Roxboro Rd the water seems clean and pristeen. If you put your boat in at the Wildlife ramp off the Old Oxford highway you will find it smelly and dirty. I even had an old porta jon float by one day. Something is happening between Old Oxford and Roxboro Rd that may add to it... Hmmmmmmmmm

  • squid90 May 16, 2008

    n my environmental sciences classes, the professors made it very clear that the single largest cause of water pollution is farm runoff. They stated cities, generally, get a bad rap. Now I know all sources should be scrutinized, but no one ever wants to call out the poor-ole farmers...
    Counting Beans

    Counting Beans, you can blame who you want to but find me 5 farms that are dumping nitrogen into falls lake please?

  • RocknRollDoctor May 16, 2008

    I'm not buying DWQs explanation on this one. There is definitely something going on. I travel this state extensively and have noticed that many large bodies of water have very high levels of algea this year. These same bodies of water were empty last year and had grasses growing in what was the lake bottoms. I'm no expert but something tells me that the major algea bloom is related to last years dry conditions not some runoff issue. IMO, it some form of a natural balancing act taking place in these large bodies of water, a conversion of all this rainwater and current run off being naturally converted to a large, standing, body of water.

    This leads me to believe the enviro nazis in DWQ are taking advantage of a situation to try and envoke greater constraints on personal property rights upstream.

    Just my 2cents.

  • Beachnut May 16, 2008

    Easy: Raleigh should ban use of fertilzers within the Falls watershed. Then all the HOA's can sue homeowners for lawns turning brown. As long as developers don't get hurt, everyone will be happy...

  • shine May 16, 2008

    Why didn't they look at it at the lowest level ? It looks like that they are just trying to justify a job. It should have been studied when the lake was low last year - for soil analysis or silt or what ever they would call it. The truth would be in the lake bed and not the water..... new water comes in every time it rains......

  • Counting Beans May 16, 2008

    In my environmental sciences classes, the professors made it very clear that the single largest cause of water pollution is farm runoff. They stated cities, generally, get a bad rap. Now I know all sources should be scrutinized, but no one ever wants to call out the poor-ole farmers...

  • tgw May 16, 2008

    Raleigh's waste water goes into the Neuse River downstream on the S-E sie of Raleigh so Clayton, Smithfield, Goldsboro, Kinston, and New Bern all get Raleigh's wastewater. Normally, the wastewater is cleaner going back into the river than what they remove from the river.

    The problem is back to developers. They keep changing the rules on how densely developers can pack houses into certain pieces of land. Years ago,any home built north of Strickland Rd. had to be on at least one acre of land. No condos, co apartments, no big shopping centers with big parking lots,... were aloud because of run-off issues. Slowly over the years, the restrictions have been modified so new development could take place. Even Churchs had to make special allowances to build new buildings and parking lots. All in all, our watchdogs, the local government decided that additional tax base was more important than keeping Falls Lake full of nitrogen. That decision is coming home to roost.