Local News

Senate sets timetable for Falls Lake cleanup

Posted August 7, 2009 6:13 p.m. EDT
Updated August 7, 2009 7:09 p.m. EDT

— A plan to clean up Raleigh’s water supply may soon be the law of the land. The state Senate on Friday agreed that rules to control sediment in Falls Lake must be in place by January  2011. The rules would serve to reduce pollution in the lake by limiting runoff from areas further upstream.

The Senate’s plan reflects a compromise between Wake County, where more than 400,000 people count on the lake for drinking water, and the counties of Orange, Person, Granville and Durham, which make up the lake’s watershed.

Images of algae and sediment collecting in the lake make it clear that cleanup is necessary. Four times this summer, Falls Lake beaches have been closed to swimmers due to high bacteria levels.

“That's just unacceptable that our drinking water has to be shut down from recreation because it's that polluted,” said Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake.

Heather Giffel thought twice before a recent day at the lake. “I was actually checking the Web sites just to see if the beach was going to be open,” she said.

Durham leaders want the state to have a plan in place before setting a deadline.

“The question is how much of a cleanup,” Mayor Bill Bell said. “I think, in order to solve a problem, you've got to first read what the problem is.”

Durham County Manager Mike Ruffin expressed disappointment with the bill Friday, saying Durham has a lot more at stake than Raleigh does and that January 2011 is too soon to expect to have a plan in place. The Durham County Board of Commissioners agreed earlier this week to set rules by November 2011.

Wake County leaders wanted to push that timetable up to next summer.

The Senate’s deadline splits the difference, Stein said.