Top leaders approve mixers for Jordan Lake

Posted February 4, 2014

Jordan Lake aerial

— Gov. Pat McCrory and other top state officials Tuesday morning signed off on a plan to deploy floating mixers in Jordan Lake as part of an effort to keep pollution at bay. 

The Council of State, made up of the governor and nine other officials elected statewide, voted to ask the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for permission to put the mixer system in the lake.

"This is a two-year experiment," said Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources John Skvarla. 

The plan, sketched out in last year's state budget, is part of a long-running controversy over the lake, which serves as both a recreation area and water supply for the Triangle area.

Jordan Lake 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. Those to nutrients are not harmful by themselves, but they feed algae blooms, which can kill fish, complicate water purification and make swimming less than pleasant. 

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

Skvarla told the Council of State that the rules would end up costing $1.5 billion to $2 billion between the state and local governments and private landowners.

In 2013, the General Assembly voted to delay implementation of many of those rules. Instead, the state will use mixers to stir the water in Jordan Lake. The idea is that, if the nitrogen and phosphorous don't settle in stagnant water, the two elements won't have a chance to feed algae.

Environmental groups have questioned whether the system actually works, pointing to reports showing a similar operation in North Carolina has not had the desired impact. 

"This process does not reduce pollution from the water?" Attorney General Roy Cooper asked. 

Division of Water Quality Director Tom Reeder told Cooper that the state does not consider nitrogen and phosphorous to be pollutants.

"Algae is the pollutant," Reeder said. 

Asked about the timeline for the project, Skvarla said the state wants to deploy it this summer. Had the council rejected the plan, both Skvarla and McCrory observed, lawmakers would have likely intervened in the matter, but it would have delayed the test for one year. 

The vote was not unanimous in favor the project, although the council did not take a formal roll call.


This blog post is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • Rebelyell55 Feb 7, 2014

    If the Corp. of Engineers said it won't work and wouldn't recommend it, then why are they wasting money going that way?

  • HeadsUp Feb 5, 2014

    How long before they start breaking?

  • stormwaterguy Feb 5, 2014

    Not only will these mixers not solve the problem of too much pollution entering Jordan Lake, these devices are navigation hazards and will be placed in areas where skiiers like to play.

  • goldenosprey Feb 5, 2014

    View quoted thread

    That's the plan's true genius. The mixers will be run by dirty coal, the smoke from which will partially block out the sun, and the added mercury will take care of any algae that sneaks through.

    Hey, if we are going to hand some crony a plum contract to install these mixers, can they be wave generating, so we don't have to wait for sea levels to break the law and rise to have surfing in the Triangle?

  • ILoveDowntownRaleigh Feb 5, 2014

    View quoted thread

    You needn't worry about your water supply if and when fracking begins in NC!

    You see, my friends, the fracking fluid will contain radioactive tracers, which could be used many years later (centuries?) to help determine the range of contamination.

    The fracking fluids will also contain hundreds of "proprietary compounds", (secret ingredients which the fracking companies are not required to divulge, thanks to new 2013 laws from the Republican general assembly).

    :-) I'm sure these secret ingredients will be added because they, umm, well, maybe to add vitamins and improve the taste.

    And all those stories about earthquakes and such? Only happens sometimes.

    ;-) Feel better?

  • Half Red Half Blue Feb 5, 2014

    Thank you WRAL for removing the two recent stories of raw sewage and coal ash being dumped into our water supply and not following up on them. We really don't need to know whats going on with matters like this, especially when fracking starts.

  • TP4Real Feb 4, 2014

    What does ol' Roy have to do with this? He's the A/G, not a water quality specialist!!!"

    I guess the same might be said for all of McCrony's appointments???

  • ILoveDowntownRaleigh Feb 4, 2014

    "So what IS the solution? Burlington and the farmers were both here before the lake was built. Sort of like the RDU airport..." - stymiedurham

    1 - I don't know what the answer is, but I know it isn't "floating mixers". I really really want to respect these Republican legislators, but they're making it impossible.

    2 - Why do neocons constantly argue about "who was here first"? Do you believe that "being here first" is some kind of free ticket to exercise ignorant or destructive behavior?

  • stymieindurham Feb 4, 2014

    So what IS the solution? Burlington and the farmers were both here before the lake was built. Sort of like the RDU airport. Buy a house near the airport and start complaining about the noise. Build a lake then start complaining about the water quality. And, I don't think throwing money at the Jordan will solve the problen either. I seriously doubt the benefit is worth the expected cost.

  • mack24 Feb 4, 2014

    Objective Scientist, I agree with 95% of what you have posted (please see my earlier post) as I, too, am a Biology major. However, we switched gears when speaking of leadership and I venture off topic when I point you in the direction of GOOD choices and job creation so far in McCrory's leadership.