Environmental Group Wants To Bring Back Jordan Lake Protection Rules

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.


Giant Pumps To Reduce Algae In Jordan Lake, Some Question

CHAPEL HILL – As the state prepares to move forward with a trial method to reduce nutrient pollution in Jordan Lake, some are questioning the logic behind the costly technology. WCHL’s Resident science expert Jeff Danner says the aerator pumps will not be an adequate solution, but rather a temporary fix instead of managing stormwater run-off upstream.

“If we really want to have good water here over the next several decades, we just need to manage our stormwater and just not let pollutants reach our drinking source,” Danner says.

North Carolina’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources is preparing to sign a $1.3 million contract with the Medora Corporation, the maker of the SolarBee, according to WRAL News.

SolarBees are solar-powered pumps that circulate the water near a lake’s surface, intended to reduce blue-green algae blooms.

About three-dozen of the pumps will be place in the lake by April 1.

Danner says that though there are positive aspects to the pumps, he believes that pollution controls upstream are the best way to prevent phosphorus and other nutrients from reaching Jordan Lake, the source of drinking water for much of the Triangle.

“By circulating the water, you can add some oxygen back in, and also by mixing the water, you shift the algae population from the surface. It’s not as though the circulation is without benefit, but what you need to do is compare that to what our plan was in the first place, which was to stop the stormwater run-off and not get the nutrients in the water.”

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

Danner explains that warm water in combination with contaminants, particularly those which contain phosphorus, can cause algae blooms.

When a lake accumulates too much blue/green algae on the surface, it can make the water smell or taste badly. It can also create toxicity in the water that can cause people to become ill.

“The only reason that algae is bad for a lake is when you have a lot of algae, it will die and fall to the bottom of the lake where it fuels the population boom in bacteria that eat the dead algae, and that will use up the oxygen in the lake,” he says.

When the dissolved oxygen drops, fish populations begin to die.

Danner says the pumps will likely make Jordan Lake look better for a short period of time but will not be the most viable option.

“Consider the irony of this plan—we would allow the nutrients to get to the lake and then we would be treating it with circulating pumps. Well, that is exactly what happens in a waste water treatment plant and I am not so sure people want their drinking source to be set up like a waste water treatment plant.”

Recently there’s been a debate raging between those who champion environmental protection standards to limit run-off into Jordan Lake, and those who say the rules are too stringent and will negatively impact developers.

“One thing that is missing from the plans with pumps is that all of those stormwater control systems that would prevent the nutrient run-off would also limit the amount of other pollutants that would get into out water supply, like oils and other pollution on the ground that gets washed into our lake,” Danner says. “The same systems that would stop the phosphorus from getting there would stop these other pollutants from reaching the lake, which is another net benefit for your water source.”

The contract between North Carolina’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Medora is for a two-year lease on the pumps with an option to buy them later, as reported by multiple news outlets. If the SolarBees prove to be successful, the State will consider purchasing additional devices.


Preston Development Looking To Expand Into Pittsboro

PITTSBORO – Preston Development INC. is planning a new project for Pittsboro called Chatham Park.

The new project would be a long process taking 30-40 years, but could bring many new aspects to the town like medical facilities, parks, trails, houses, and businesses.  Consulting Planner for Chatham Park, Philip Culpepper, says that Pittsboro and the people there will not be left out of the project.

“We will be a part of Pittsboro,” Culpepper says. “We’ve already annexed portions of the property into Pittsboro. We consider Pittsboro, its historic downtown, and the people of Pittsboro an integral part of what we are trying to do.” Culpepper said.

Several developments in Chatham County like Briar Chapel, Powell Place, and Westmoore have tried to blend businesses with housing, but have had little success.  Culpepper says that they have a different plan to bring in business and that they will not focus on retail like these other developments.

“We’re looking at more of broader range, of not only retail, but medical facilities, light industries, office parks, things like that,” says Culpepper. “So it’s a much broader range and we’re already seeing the demand. We anticipate building a medical office facility here very shortly.”

Currently Preston has several projects ranging across the state.  When asked why Pittsboro, Culpepper says it seemed like the next big area for the Triangle.

“Seeing it as the next logical location for development to occur,” Culpepper says. “Wake County, a lot of development has taken place to the west side of Wake County. Jordan Lake comes in, realizing the demand was going to be there, realizing that we wanted to put a quality project there so that the demand could come into a quality development rather than being scattered across the county.”

Culpepper has worked with Pittsboro commissioners for the past eight years on planning this project and has faced almost no opposition. A few people have complained that the town will have to provide the infrastructure for the development.  One of the owners of Preston Development, Tim Smith, says that this will not be a problem because the company is planning on building the entire infrastructure themselves and possibly giving it over to the Town in the future.

“We’re not asking the citizens to pay for anything,” Smith says. “We’re going to pay for our own water lines, our own sewers, own sewer plants, and we going to generate enough tax revenue to go back to pay for anything that the Town would require to give us like fire, police, and all that; so we’re paying for everything. This project will not cost the citizen of Pittsboro one cent, not one cent.”

Preston development is also a member of the “Clean Tech” cluster, a world-leading user of energy saving devices.  Smith says that as a member of the “Clean Tech” cluster the developers plan on using the green technology from the RTP area to make the development as new and modern as possible.

“Everything that we can possibly do, everything that’s new we want to use it,” Smith says. “If something comes out next year that’s better, we intend to use it. So we intend to use everything that’s available to us that’s why we’re a member of this Clean Tech cluster. They’re going to provide us with all their expertise and use our project as a model demonstration project for the world, so we’ll be a world demonstration project for all the newest things that come out.”

The Chatham Park development may grow past the current 7,120 acres of land that are already owned.  Smith says he hopes that in 40 years he can look at the development and be proud of everything that they achieved.  Smith also says they want to work with local contractors and businesses when developing Chatham Park to include the community in the development.

Below is a map of the proposed site for Chatham Park in relation to Pittsboro.  On Saturday, the Town Commissioners are having a meeting to discuss some aspects of Chatham Park with their staff.

8.14 news2chatham raleigh.indd


Battle Over Jordan Lake Anti-Pollution Rules Continues

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.