Jordan Lake and the Haw River are two bodies of water that impact our area and are at the center of a debate between conservationists and state lawmakers. The argument is about how to reduce pollution in Jordan Lake, either by enforcing pollution controls throughout the watershed or by using a new method whose effectiveness some question.
Elaine Chiosso, the Haw Riverkeeper for the Haw River Assembly, listened in as a state legislative research committee on Jordan Lake met Wednesday, taking public comment on the issue.
She is one of many environmentalists who are urging lawmakers to bring back the “Jordan Lake Rules,” which were designed to protect the lake and its watershed by limiting nutrient and pollutant runoff.
“Our state has gone backwards at the task of trying to restore this river and Jordan Lake,” she said.
The Haw River flows 110 miles from the north-central Piedmont region of the state, to the Jordan Lake Reservoir, and into the Cape Fear River in south Chatham County.
Chiosso said she was “outraged” when the General Assembly decided last summer to put the Jordan Lake Rules on hold for three years, before many of the measures could be implemented.
Some said the rules which were developed in 2009 would cost developers hundreds of thousands of dollars to meet the standards.
What pollution flows into the Haw River, Chiosso said, will eventually make its way downstream into Jordan Lake, the source of drinking water for much of the Triangle.
“Really the biggest impacts on Jordan Lake come from people that are farther away. It is harder to make that case,” Chiosso said.
As alternative measure, the state went forward with installing SolarBee aerator pumps in the lake, which some said would be a cheaper way to keep the lake clean.
The giant pumps will circulate the water near the surface, with the intention of reducing algae blooms.
Chiosso said that based on the information discussed Wednesday, she was not convinced that there are solid parameters in place to determine if the pumps are effective.
“These SolarBees, by churning up the water, keep algae from growing, but it doesn’t stop any of the pollution that is in that water. Really all your are doing is sending that water in Jordan Lake as it goes downstream. Jordan Lake is not a closed system. It is the Haw River and it keeps going on down to meet the Cape Fear. You are just down into the Cape Fear River.”
By rolling back the rules designed to address water pollution, Chiosso said many ague that this puts the state in conflict with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Water Act.
Last week, the Haw River made it on the top 10 list of “America’s Most Endangered Rivers Of 2014,” which was compiled by the environmental group, American Rivers.
“Our best hope right now on getting the Jordan Lake Rules back on track [is that] we need people to be telling the legislature that this is unacceptable. Just because they just said that they are probably not going to talk about it during this session, if there were enough pressure, they might change their minds about that.”
Chiosso added that she was disappointed, but “not surprised” that state leaders indicated Wednesday that they will not revisit the issue during the legislative session in May.