Battle Over Jordan Lake Anti-Pollution Rules Continues

By Rachel Nash Posted May 27, 2013 at 3:34 pm

CHAPEL HILL – A bill is now heading to the NC House of Representatives that seeks to repeal the state’s water protection rules to lessen pollution and run-off into Jordan Lake—the water source for much of the Triangle. It’s already passed in the Senate and now local conservation  groups are speaking out against the bill.

“That’s pie in the sky. That is magical thinking. There’s no other solution for improving the water quality than to stop the pollution of Jordan Lake; we have to prevent the pollution from getting into the water,” said Olga Grlic, co-chair of the Orange-Chatham County Sierra Club.

Grlic , a resident of Chapel Hill, attended a press conference Friday—organized by the state chapter of the Sierra Club. Its goal was to raise awareness about the effects this legislation might have on Jordan Lake.

Other environmental groups like Environment North Carolina and the Haw River Assembly were in attendance.

“There’s also an overload of information so anything we can do to let people now what is going on is bound to wake people up and encourage them to contact their representatives,” Grlic said.

Jordan Lake currently provides water to about 250,000 people in our area and Grlic says that number will likely double in the next ten years.

Environmental advocates have argued that Jordan Lake has problems with pollution because it’s fed by streams and tributaries that carry contaminants from urban areas.

Another issue is that  fertilizer washes into to the lake from people’s yards. This causes algae blooms that bacteria will consume– subsequently causing a rise in the bacteria population. The high bacteria population then consumes dissolved oxygen in the water faster than it can be replenished by new oxygen dissolving in from the air. When the dissolved oxygen drops and fish populations begin to die– as local science expert Jeff Danner explained.

Grlic says Jordan Lake is already on the verge of not living up to federal regulations.

“I think a lot of the bills have gone through at such a crazy speed that there hasn’t been enough room for consultation,” Grlic said.

Sponsors for the bill have said the current rules, which were put into place in 2009, are costing developers hundreds of thousands of dollars and need to be changed. Grlic says if these rules are repealed—the situation will get worse.

“Whenever roads are paved—these impervious surfaces cause run-off bringing dirt and bits of oil,” Grlic said. “Fertilizer from lawns also gets washed into the lake.”

NC Senator Ellie Kinnaird (Dem.), who represents Orange and Chatham Counties, has also spoken out against the bill. She says environmental regulations being swept aside by the General Assembly.

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