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Pollution regulations for Jordan, Falls lakes on hold again

Posted May 29, 2018 4:47 p.m. EDT
Updated May 29, 2018 6:20 p.m. EDT

— The SolarBees are long gone, but the pollution control regulations at Jordan Lake still won't be returning any time soon, according to legislative leaders.

A provision in the proposed state budget would again delay implementation of the so-called Jordan Lake Rules until 2020. Similar regulations for Falls Lake could be on hold until 2024.

The Jordan Lake Rules were adopted in 2009 at the behest of federal regulators and were designed to cut pollution flowing into the reservoir, which provides drinking water for more than 300,000 people in the Triangle. The pollution has led to repeated algal blooms caused by excess nutrients originating from neighborhood, city and farm runoff.

Ever since, however, Republican lawmakers have been coming up with creative ways to delay having to follow them.

In 2014, it was SolarBees – giant solar-powered mixers that were supposed to churn the water and prevent algae from growing. They didn't work as intended, so state regulators removed them two years later.

Last year, GOP leaders proposed using chemicals to kill the algae in Jordan Lake and Falls Lake, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees both lakes, rejected that plan, saying it could harm aquatic life.

Now, the North Carolina Policy Collaboratory, an institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill led by a former adviser to Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, has been given $1 million to study pollution in the lake and directs state regulators to rewrite the Jordan Lake Rules based on the results of the study.

"Until that study is completed – a study I don't remember hearing about – those rules are still shelved, and the people in Wake County who get their drinking water from Jordan Lake, which is Cary, Apex and Morrisville, continue to wait for cleaner drinking water," said Rep. Gale Adcock, D-Wake.

Although the rules were hammered out after extensive negotiations among various groups, developers and officials of Triad cities upstream of Jordan Lake, have complained that the required pollution control measures would be too expensive to implement.

"They have managed to get those rules shelved because they weren't happy with the outcome," Adcock said. "Those are not the people who drink the water, let's put it that way."

Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake, called the repeated delays a job-killer.

"If the Triangle does not have a safe quality supply of water, we cannot grow – one of the biggest economic engines in this state that creates jobs throughout our state cannot grow," Martin said.