Local News

Raleigh presses for Falls Lake clean-up

Posted September 15, 2009 6:57 p.m. EDT

— The City Council adopted a resolution Tuesday calling for pollution in Falls Lake to be cleaned up by 2016.

The lake provides drinking water for more than 450,000 Wake County residents, but runoff from farm fields and storm drains in Durham and Granville counties, near the lake's headwaters, have led to excessive algae growth and sediment.

"It concerns me to no end we have the largest, most polluted water source in the whole state, Falls Lake," said state Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake.

The state Environmental Management Commission and the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources have set a January 2011 deadline for putting a plan in place to clean up the lake.

Raleigh officials want strict guidelines that focus on septic tanks, stormwater discharges and tougher development standards north of the lake.

"We need to be as candid with ourselves and our citizens as possible, and that is the current rules aren't working," Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said.

The resolution adopted Tuesday called for a two-phase clean-up that would be completed within five years of adoption.

"Unless we all change our practices to the best level of technology, we really don't have the ability to improve the quality of the lake. The sooner we can do that and all get on board to do that, the better off we will be," Raleigh City Manager Russell Allen said.

Durham officials have already said 2011 is too soon to expect to have a plan in place, and other opposition is expected as the deadline approaches.

"I think what we have to do is balance. We have a problem. Everyone agrees we have a problem," Stein said.

"(Environmental regulators are) hearing from Durham, they're hearing from Granville, they're hearing from Wake and Raleigh," he said. "They're going to come up with rules that get the job done but do it in a way that's actually reasonable."