Reinstatement of Jordan Lake pollution controls urged

Posted April 16, 2014

— Environmentalists, local officials and a Durham businessman urged lawmakers Wednesday to bring back the so-called Jordan Lake Rules to control pollution in the lake.

But Sen. Rick Gunn, R-Alamance, told them no legislation is planned when the General Assembly reconvenes in late May.

Jordan Lake, which provides drinking water to about 300,000 people in the Triangle, has had pollution problems since construction finished in the 1970s. Runoff from farms, homes and businesses upstream in the Triad area has dumped tons of nitrogen and phosphorous into the lake.

The federal government has ordered the state to clean up the lake, and for much of the past decade, the state developed rules that would limit nutrient runoff into the lake. But communities upstream complained that restrictions on land development and measures such as retrofitting sewer plants to meet the Jordan Lake Rules standards are too costly.

The General Assembly voted last year to delay implementation of many of the rules while testing equipment that some lawmakers say would be a cheaper alternative to cleaning the lake. Thirty-six solar-powered SolarBee aerators will be deployed in two arms of the lake over the next two years to stir the waters, with the goal of preventing nitrogen and phosphorus from settling in stagnant water and feeding algae growth.

Environmental groups have questioned whether the SolarBee system actually works, citing experiments in smaller lakes where the aerators didn't have the desired impact, and environmental advocates and others told members of a legislative research committee that conducting the experiment shouldn't be grounds for suspending other pollution controls.

"I encourage you to stop the cycle of delays and experiments and instead do the one thing that has proven results: reduce pollution upstream," said Brooks Rainey Pearson, a lawyer with the Southern Environmental Law Center. "Now is not the time for experimentation. It's the time for action."

Pearson said halting efforts to cut pollution upstream could put the state into conflict with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in its enforcement of the Clean Water Act.

Morrisville Town Councilman Steve Rao said officials spent several years researching and developing the Jordan Lake Rules, and Morrisville and other municipalities have already put some systems in place to decrease pollution.

"Exploring technology solutions is ignoring the solution at hand," Rao said. "We simply cannot afford to wait any longer."

Karen Rindge, executive director of WakeUP Wake County, said Cary and Apex officials also have invested in pollution controls and shouldn't be asked to stop work for the SolarBee experiment, which she called a "waste of taxpayer money."

"This delay is not fair to the 300,000 citizens who rely on Jordan Lake for their water, who pay their taxes and are counting on state leaders to take action," Rindge said.

Marlene Sanford, president of the Triad Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition, said delaying compliance deadlines doesn't mean communities have to suspend their pollution control efforts, arguing that environmentalists are making the situation out to be more dire than it actually is.

"There's an awful lot going on with these rules. It's not like they've been thrown out the window," Sanford said.

Triad-area businesses need the delay to rebuild after the recession without the added cost of trying to limit their pollution, she said, adding that there's enough evidence that "we're not going to fix the problem anyway" because Jordan Lake is perpetually polluted.

Gunn said cleaning Jordan Lake is "a decades-long event," and efforts both upstream and downstream must be considered.

"They're asking us to do some things that are very very costly upstream, and we do not have any assurances based on knowledge that we have that we'll have any positive material impact on the quality of the lake," he said.

"It would be wonderful if, when God put this Earth together, he had given us rivers for clean drinking water and other rivers to dispose of our waste, but unfortunately, he didn't give us that option," said Rep. John Faircloth, R-Guilford. "We're dealing with a problem that's caused by us living on this planet, and as we can all see, it's not an easy one to solve."


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  • Objective Scientist Apr 17, 2014

    Those controls absolutely NEED to be reinstated! Putting a few "mixers" into Jordan waters will likely make little - IF ANY - difference in the water quality of Jordan Lake. It is difficult to believe anyone would seek to do deploy such mixers without solid, hard evidence that they will make a significant difference. Is there such evidence out there? I have seen NONE, and have to believe there is NONE since it is most likely the proponents of mixers would have put such evidence out to support their cause if such existed. Is this a "giant experiment"? If it is... say so!!! Without it being a viable, worth-trying experiment or in the absence of convincing evidence that the mixers work... it is a HUGEl waste of time and money.

  • descartes Apr 17, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Jordan Lake is a navigable water and is therefore subject to Federal regulation under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. (The real Constitution, not the Articles of Confederation that conservatives like to pretend is the Constitution).

  • Objective Scientist Apr 17, 2014

    In addition to pollution issues in the streams, rivers, and lakes of NC... what is going on with the WRAL "Comments" monitors? Since WRAL changes their website and as part of that the formatting, etc. for commenting to an article changed I have had several comments - some that I put some thought and time into - NEVER appear in the postings. I never use "bad language" and do not attack people personally. I cannot imagine ANY reason for my comments being "inappropriate" for posting. What gives WRAL? Do you simply get overwhelmed and decide to randomly "trash" some comments?

  • Moist Apr 17, 2014

    "It would be wonderful if, when God put this Earth together, he had given us rivers for clean drinking water and other rivers to dispose of our waste, but unfortunately, he didn't give us that option," said Rep. John Faircloth, R-Guilford.

    Sounds like Earth wasnt designed very intelligently then.

  • jmcdow2792 Apr 17, 2014

    [quote=13574603]Post by bowens44[/quote
    When have the Republicans been in charge of the governor's mansion and the legislature in NC?

  • bowens44 Apr 17, 2014

    'I really thought the state would benefit from having the Republicans take over'

    Seriously? When have the republicans ever done anything that benefits the state or the people of the state? Republicans care only about their wealthy corporate overlords. It has always been this way and will always be this way.

  • lolov987 Apr 16, 2014

    I really thought the state would benefit from having the Republicans take over after 100 years of Democrats controlling the Legislature. I am not so sure now. People use the water from this lake and surrounding lakes as public drinking water. People bathe in this stuff. It is in the best interest of the people in this state to stop the pollution and future potential contamination of the water. Money really should not take precedence when you are speaking of the harm that can be done to North Carolinians through unclean water. Why waste money on experimentation that may fail and require even more money to be spent in the long run, when we have a clear example of something PROVEN to work? I am bitterly disappointed with the Republicans. I was sick of the corruption of Easley and Purdue, the corruption evidently runs very deep.

  • Phyxius1 Apr 16, 2014

    View quoted thread

    I never said I didnt know, I was simply stating that the Corp Of Engineers have all the say on what happens in their controlled areas of water and land as stated by other poster. I also stated if you do something on their property without permits you are asking for fines. Yes I have permits for my dock, my mooring buoy when used and also have them come out and tag the trees I can cut down before they fall towards my house or dock. I can cut them down but not remove... I also got approval for gravel down the path to the water from my house. I`m quite aware of the rules and never said I didn't know the rules but stated there are ones in place.

  • jmcdow2792 Apr 16, 2014

    View quoted thread

    What was the BOD and COD levels of the ponds compared to Lake Jordan? Also what was the output or horse power of the machines used in the ponds relative to those proposed for Lake Jordan?

  • Greg Boop Apr 16, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Oxygenation has been shown to work in small ponds to reduce algae. Two oxygenation machines are needed per acre for it to be minimally effective. Jordan Lake is 13,940 acres in size, therefore it will require 27,880 oxygenation machines to minimally reduce algae.