Local News

Raleigh mayor wants temporary rules to protect Falls Lake

Posted June 24, 2009 7:04 p.m. EDT
Updated June 24, 2009 7:46 p.m. EDT

— Raleigh's main water source needs help, and the city's mayor is pushing for temporary rules to protect it while the state completes a study on the best way to clean it up and keep it from getting worse.

Falls Lake, which is part of a national listing of polluted lakes, provides drinking water for more than 400,000 residents in Wake County, as well as residents in Granville, Orange and Durham counties.

State scientists who have studied the body of water for four years want two more years to complete their work.

But Mayor Charles Meeker says the city cannot wait and wants to use temporarily rules adopted to clean up Jordan Lake to help reduce runoff from commercial and residential development that can contribute to lake pollution.

"Falls Lake is a tremendously important resource to everyone, not just for recreation, but for drinking water," he said. "So, we really have to treat it as a top priority and look after it."

Some species of algae are harmful to human health, causing digestive and nervous system problems. As more of it develops in the lake, the more expensive it will be to treat the water for drinking.

The citizens group WakeUp Wake County also wants to see action now.

"We can act sooner," said Karen Rindge, a member of the group. "We have got a precedent from all of the negotiations that took place on Jordan Lake. We already have stakeholders very involved in this process. So, the time to act is now. As people who drink the water, we can't afford to wait several more years."

Local leaders agree that they need to look at ways to limit pollution at Falls Lake, but how to limit the pollution is something on which they disagree. Any changes to protect the lake could have an impact on developers and development.

The rules for Jordan Lake passed last week. A study this week found Falls Lake might be as contaminated, if not more so, than Jordan Lake.