Hearing on Proposed Jordan Lake Rules

Dan Coleman's picture

Those interested in water quality may want to attend a Public Hearing for the Proposed Water Supply Nutrient Strategy for B. Everett Jordan Reservoir. The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June July 12, at The Century Center.

This is one of three hearings being held by the North Carolina Division of Water Quality. A good overview can be found in their public notice.

The proposed rules call for much more stringent discharge limits for phosphorus and nitrogen. As well as the regulations themselves, a major concern for local government is who pays for the improvements. As Mayor Chilton pointed out at a recent board meeting, the Corps of Engineers laid out the lake to take significant run off from more densely populated areas, those areas are already ahead of the curve on controlling run-off (as compared to others in the watershed), and we will not consume Jordan Lake water.

The proposed rules are here.

The Triangle J's take on the rules can be found in our recent agenda item.

And the OWASA board will be discussing their position on Monday night.

On June 26, the Board of Aldermen held a public hearing and approved a text amendment on post-construction stormwater management requirements of the draft Jordan Rules. Staff is working on ordinance provisions pertaining to stream buffer requirements, a portion of which will also respond to the Jordan Rule, and hopes to bring that before the Board of Aldermen before the end of 2007.

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Total votes: 15

12 Comments

I've spent a fair amount of

I've spent a fair amount of time reading and trying to understand these rules. They are not easily digested or understandable to non-engineers. But I have several concerns.

First, the rules are proposing a nitrogen trading system. Theoretically I am not opposed to trading systems, but in this case, the specified measurement tools are insufficient to assure true accountability. According to preliminary response from OWASA, they are going to support this aspect of the rules. Since they are good managers and have invested heavily in reducing nutrient loads being returned to Morgan Creek, this provision may well allow them to generate income by selling credits. Ethically, I am not convinced that allowing other communities to continue polluting is a positive outcome for these rules or for our regional water quality.

Second, oversight of this program is left in the hands of those who generate most of the runoff (waterwater effluent, agricultural applications including biosolids/sludge applications, and stormwater). For example, in the nutrient requirements section of the rules, the proposed rules don't change the current practice of requiring wastewater generators to self-monitor water quality testing of surface water surrounding their land applications of biosolids/sludge.

Third, the rules are exclusively focused on nutrient loads (nitrogen and phosphorus) and heavy metals and ignore chemical loads. While the testing technologies for chemicals (including personal care products and pharmaceuticals) are still evolving, these rules are scheduled to go into effect 5 years after adoption. By that time, testing technologies will have evolved considerably and, hopefully, the costs will have gone down. The language around testing requirements should be written to take into account new and emerging contaminants and chemicals, such as endocrine disrupters.

I find it odd that two of

I find it odd that two of the three hearings are in Alamance County. There are no hearings in Chatham County. Anyone have insight to selection of sites for hearings?

Seems like a hearing in Chatham County would have a much higher level of participation.

It's worth reading OWASA's

It's worth reading OWASA's position to see how much OWASA has done to address this problem. OWASA's view is a bit wider than the state's. For instance it notes the watershed protection measures that have been taken.

Another interesting point - clorophyll A has not proven to be an accurate indicator of water problems, yet it is used as a key indicator by the state.

It is easier for the state to target wastewater treatment plants (and municipalities) than it is to target the vast number and varied types of non-point source pollution. Obviously, many wastewater treatment plant operations need upgrading to address the pollution problem. However, to adequately address the non-point source pollution, many economic oxes will need to be gored. Our society utilizes a vast array of chemicals and bad development practices that combine to produce more pollution than the wastewater treatment plants.

Will the state powers-that-be find the courage to do what really needs to be done and ban the use of harmful pesticides and herbicides, various chemicals used in manufacturing, and development practices that ensure harmful run-off? If the way the state reacted to the great drought of 2001-2002 is any indicator, the powers-that-be will continue to led by the nose of business and industry and the Home Builders Association and exhibit blindness to everything but status-quo business profits.

As this morning's Herald

As this morning's Herald reports, there were no moderates at last night's hearing. Speakers (2.5 hours worth) either wanted the proposed rules implemented sooner rather than later OR they wanted the rules thrown out altogether. Representatives from Greensboro, Apex, Cary, Graham, Chapel Hill, Alamance County, and Orange County were present along with a large contingency of home builders and real estate agents along with an equally large turnout from the Haw River Assembly and Chatham citizens.

There did seem to be agreement that there are technical problems with the rules. For one thing, the rules assume nitrogen and phosphorus (nutrients) are the basis of the pollution. OWASA and several other groups challenged this claim and pointed out reducing nitrogen and phosphorus loads may not solve the problems.

The costs of these rules are significant for local governments.
What I found perplexing is the expectation of the construction/real estate groups and the local governments that growth should continue. The burden of these rules to local governments lies in reducing stormwater runoff (nonpoint source) for new and existing development. As OWASA and Chapel Hill town reps pointed out, if our local restrictive land use ordinances and our state-of-the-art wastewater treatment facility cannot achieve the targeted nitrogen reductions, it may not be possible to ever achieve the target.

The biggest chuckle I got all night was listening to the head of some real estate group claiming that the proposed rules would create an impossible barrier to affordable housing. There were also many claims that these rules (aka clean water) would have a negative impact on economic development. Yeah, right. So much more important to have economic development than clean drinking water--as if there is no connection between the two.

Terri, right on about the

Terri, right on about the Realtors and Homebuilders. Their hypocrisy is nearly cartoonish and would be laughable if they didn't have so much power in NC politics. Their litany, as far as I can tell, is:

"We support clean water, but just not these Jordan Lake rules. We support good schools, but just not the transfer tax. We support affordable housing, we just don't build any."

Gimme a break. Problem is, they can get just about anything they want out of the State Senate....witness their ability to single-handedly block the land transfer tax in the Senate. It should be noted, that even if the EMC adopts the proposed Jordan Lake rules, they can be overturned by legislative action. The Realtors and Homebuilders have clearly demonstrated their clout over there.

Ummm Mike, money talks?

Ummm Mike, money talks? Nothing like a large warchest to get some of our elected folks attention.

Terri, fantastic write up (I wanted to attend but life got in the way). Dead on about the definition of pollution. Reminds me of our discussion on whether the DENR's definitions as per the potential big box at Starpoint were adequate given what we know today about the panoply of modern water pollutants.

Was there any talk about the pressure developments on the west side of Jordan - the Preserve, Monterrene, Homestead, Bigwoods, etc. - are putting on the watershed? In previous discussions about Jordan it seems folks concentrate on point-source pollution over the degradation of the wider watershed.

Here's the text of my

Here's the text of my statement. I do not believe that nitrogen and phosphorus are the only problems we are dealing with. Focusing on nutrients exclusively does not move us forward in protecting a natural resource that is being bombarded by new development and changing lifestyles. As OWASA has pointed out, nitrogen and phosphorus levels at University Lake are well below the proposed targets and yet we continue to see algael blooms. We can't assume that increasing constraints of nutrients will solve Jordan Lakes problems.

I am here tonight to request that the proposed rules be strengthened by adding tests for chemicals, known as emerging contaminants, found in agricultural and stormwater runoff and wastewater effluent, to the adaptive management plan. The USGS defines emerging contaminants as “those chemicals that have been shown to occur widely in the environment and also identified as being a potential environmental or public health risk, and yet adequate data do not exist to determine this risk.”

In 2002, a USGS study documented the presence of contaminants, including prescription and non-prescription drugs, hormones, and other wastewater compounds, in a network of 139 targeted streams across the United States. David Nash, a wildlife endocrinologist with the University of Colorado, has found that in the Boulder Creek, upstream, where the water flows clear out of the Rocky Mountains, the ratio of males to females is 50-50. Downstream, below the Boulder wastewater-treatment plant, the females outnumber the males by 5 to 1. About 10% of the fish had both male and female sexual characteristics.

Based on these studies and many more that have associated increased rates of cancer, reproductive impairment in humans and wildlife and antibiotic resistance with emerging contaminants, it is my belief that nutrient testing alone is insufficient to address the full range of contaminants impacting Jordan Lake. While these chemicals have not yet been included in the state's water quality guidelines, staff within the Division of Water Quality has assured me that they are investigating the possibility of including compounds of emerging concern in the state standards. Testing methods, such as the Whole Effluent Toxicity test, BOD/COD ratios, refractory toxicity testing and respiration tests are available today to monitor chemicals and chemical interactions within wastewater and in our waterways.

However, at this time, we do not have sufficient local data to know which compounds could be negatively impacting Jordan Lake or the residents who draw their water from the reservoir.
Therefore, I respectfully request that the adaptive management plan mandated by the Jordan Lake rules be revised to include periodic testing for emerging contaminants and chemicals in all tributaries within the Jordan Reservoir watershed as well as plant effluents at various distances from the discharge site. This data can be used to informed continuous improvement in management practices as well as contributing to the states efforts to incorporate emerging contaminants in our water quality standards.