NC Senate repeals Jordan Lake cleanup law

Environment North Carolina

Raleigh—Pollution will increase into Jordan Lake, the popular Triangle drinking water source, under a bill that cleared the Senate today 31 to 16.  The measure, unveiled just 24 hours ago, reversed a cleanup law adopted in 2009 that required developers, wastewater treatment plants, and other sources to reduce their pollution over time by up to 35 percent.

“The Senate just put our drinking water at risk ,” said Elizabeth Ouzts, state director for Environment North Carolina.  “They just voted for more pollution, more algae blooms, and more beach closings at Jordan Lake.”

More than a million people visit Jordan Lake each year for fishing, swimming, boating, and camping; and 300,000 Wake and Chatham county residents rely on it for drinking water.

Development upstream of Jordan Lake has taken its toll, however, and the lake has routinely failed basic water quality standards since 1997.  To restore the lake, the General Assembly passed a law to require developers, wastewater treatment facilities, and agricultural sources to reduce nitrogen and phosphorous pollution into the lake over time. 

The result of years of extensive negotiations and scientific study, the 2009 measure passed 47 to 0 in the Senate, and with only nine “no” votes in the state House.  The compromise rules established a multi-year, phased process for pollution reductions, a direct response to upstream sources who wanted more time to comply.

The municipalities of Apex, Carrboro, Cary, Chapel Hill, Chatham County, Orange County Raleigh, Durham, and Greensboro all supported the 2009 law.

The cleanup law affects Jordan Lake as well as the rivers and streams that feed into it, including the Haw River, Buffalo Creek, Reedy’s Fork, New Hope Creek, and dozens of other rivers and streams.

Proponents of the law argued that the 2009 law wasn’t working, but most of the law’s deadlines for wastewater treatment plant upgrades and controls on new development are still in the future.

“Cleaning up and restoring Jordan Lake will take time,” said Ouzts.  “Let’s give the 2009 law a chance to work.”