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Falls Lake pollution could require new treatment plant

Posted January 5, 2010

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— Raleigh could be forced to spend more than $250 million on a new water treatment plant because increasing pollution is overwhelming the current plant, according to city officials.

Falls Lake provides drinking water for more than 450,000 Wake County residents, but runoff from farm fields and storm drains in Durham and Granville counties, near the lake's headwaters, has led to excessive algae growth and sediment.

In a Dec. 28 report to City Manager Russell Allen, the city's Public Utilities Department said the E. M. Johnson Water Treatment Plant cannot handle the growing amount of carbon in the lake that is being produced by runoff from developed areas and the algae and bacteria in the lake that thrive on other nutrients in the runoff.

"The consequence of declining water quality in Falls Lake will invariably lead to greater operational and capital expenditures to ensure compliance with Safe Drinking Water Act regulations," officials said in the report. "Additional (organic carbon) removal would require the
construction of one or more 'advanced' treatment processes."

Algal blooms also have the potential to clog the filters at the treatment plant's intake pipe in the lake, diminishing its water treatment capacity, officials said.

Expanding the plant to handle 100 million gallons a day, from the current capacity of 86 million gallons a day, and upgrading it with various options to treat the pollution could cost the city from $265 million to $341 million, according to the report.

The state Environmental Management Commission and the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources have set a January 2011 deadline for putting a plan in place to clean up the lake. Raleigh officials have said they would like all pollution cleared from the lake by 2016.


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  • whatelseisnew Jan 6, 2010

    "Why should Wake County foot the bill when we know just where the pollution is coming from?"

    Because you live in Wake County. Unless you move real close to the headwaters you are paying for the pollution of everyone upstream. The people downstream from raleigh are paying for the pollution wake county adds. Course you could get out of the city and provide your own water.

  • whatelseisnew Jan 6, 2010

    Hey Raleighites? Can you hear your taxes going up AGAIN. Plus expect another increase in your water and sewer rates. Isn't it fun to pay for the same thing multiple times.

  • Jeremiah Jan 6, 2010

    "Go back and see what politicians allowed high density housing and sewer lines out there where woods and farms were dominate. Why would they do that? They knew it was a water shed."

    well, technically, everywhere is a watershed. lots drain to reservoirs. heck, the watershed for jordan lake goe up beyond greensboro.

  • GotSig Jan 6, 2010

    So what happened to the $100 million Dempsey Benton Plant, AKA Garner Waterworks, that was built to alleviate the Falls Lake treatment burden? It will be online in a few months. Why is that of no acknowledged benefit to Falls Lake?

  • commonsense4 Jan 6, 2010

    "The state Environmental Management Commission and the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources have set a January 2011 deadline for putting a plan in place to clean up the lake."

    Good thing they're working fast on this project . . a year to come up with a plan. I'm sure it didn't take them a year to decide to build in flood areas and watersheds.

    We're at a point where there is little areas left unpolluted and if we don't act soon watch what happens when the only water left is polluted - you think this country is bad now. Any politician that plays with our health and allows developers to ruin more land should be ousted and people should look at their history before they're elected and look at what industries they are friends with - if it's construction and real estate don't elect them -- it's about $$$ and them enabling themselves to become rich at the expense of our finances and health. Be aggressive and get after these crooked politicians now!!!

  • mdaphoto Jan 6, 2010

    this problem is from multiple violations of water shed act and just poor watershed management. agriculture is a major contributing factor. buffers along streams and rivers must be protected from run off with buffer zones to filter out nitrates, control silt ect. wake county is just as big of a problem down stream.

    however as soon as the controls that have been put in plsce to help with this problem "land rights" and socialist govt is all you will hear.

  • veyor Jan 6, 2010

    Instead of building reservoirs and water treatment plants, lets build greenways, and civic centers, and police stations, and Fayetteville Streets......and while we're at it, lets buy a violin and fiddle away while we run out of WATER. You would think the 2007 drought would have done it - but nope.

  • bobbyj Jan 6, 2010

    polluation needs to be treated at the source. I guess Durham and Granville County could build damns and stop the water flow completely like the old bugs bunny cartoon.

    What people tend to not understand is agruicultural makes up about 85% of all the pollution we see in sediment and organic. Subdivisions actually increase the water quality because of the regulations for quality and quantity control at the source. Farms have always been exempt from any real water quality programs that needs to end. Stop the problem at the source.

  • 007 - GranCo - Forever Jan 6, 2010

    What companies in Granville County empty into Falls Lake? It's natural run off from fields and streams. And Granville doesn't use Falls as a water source, Wake does. Wake also contributes heavily in the run off problem (subdivisions, etc). I agree with DJ.

  • butterpie Jan 5, 2010

    I still don't understand why the companies in Durham and Granville Counties are allowed to get by with this. Why should Wake County foot the bill when we know just where the pollution is coming from?