Local News

Sludge Again A Problem In Raleigh Creek

Posted August 26, 2006 1:26 a.m. EDT

— The water flowing down a creek from a Raleigh water treatment plant is once again carrying a strange, colorful sludge. The problem is not new, and neighbors are tired of empty promises to stop it.

The North Raleigh creek has a colorful, troubled history. In 2002, state water quality inspectors looked for the source of a strange black sludge. They found no aquatic life, and they said that they suspected that chlorine discharged into the water killed everything.

Last January, bright green and white slime coated the creek. Biologists determined it was sulphur bacteria, which looks strange but is harmless.

Now, the latest abnormality has arrived -- a grayish yellow foam collecting in the water and sticking to rocks.

Late Friday, Wake County officials released data that shows there are high levels of E. coli bacteria in the creek's sediment. The report doesn't pinpoint the source of the bacteria, which can cause serious illness in humans who become infected with it.

"The concern is: one, it's an ongoing problem. Then, what are the implications for our community?" said neighbor Ron Gregory.

Sheffield Manor neighbors like Gregory are frustrated. After the last problems with the creek, the Raleigh City Council committed more than $3 millions so the EM Johnson Water Plant could purchase new pumps and stop discharging into the creek.

This time, the slime is different and less extensive. According to e-mails obtained by WRAL, state inspectors said they believe it's some sort of biofilm that can collect around drains or sinks.

Neighbors are worried about the long-term effects to their wells and Falls Lake. The creek feeds into Raleigh's primary drinking water source. Research that they accumulated shows high concentrations of manganese and iron. Dangerous or not, they argue, it's just not right.

"We knew for a fact that it's 95 times the level that would naturally occur. That creates a concern," said Gregory.

Raleigh's Public Works Director Dale Crisp said the treatment plant is in a tough position. State regulations limit how much water it can recycle, so the plant must continue to discharge until capital improvements are completed.

Crisp's staff is conducting tests. As for the E. coli discovery, Crisp said he sees no logical connection to the plant.