TinaM | Indy Week

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Re: “Who's responsible for the Falls Lake mess?


I think the development process is complicated for anyone. I am not opposed to growth, I just think we should use the technologies that provide the least amount of environmental degradation. The triangle is not unique in its water quality issues. Many municipalities are dealing with this very same issue. I find this topic interesting and I'm just sharing some of my research. I wish you luck with your grocery store. It sounds like a great project.

Here is the information about Durham and Person County. Hope this helps.

Back in the late 80's Durham was really concerned about development upstream of Lake Michie. About 75% of Lake Michie's watershed is in Person County. Durham commissioned a study called "Watershed Management Study: Lake Michie and Little River Reservoir Watersheds" by Camp Dresser & McKee (June 1989). Durham spent $100,000 on this thorough report. This is why Durham doesn't allow developments in its own watersheds of Lake Michie and Little River. Here are a few interesting quotes:

"If uncontrolled future development causes further water quality deterioration in Lake Michie and Little River Reservoir, it will be even more difficult and costly for Durham to meet the new EPA drinking water standards." (Executive Summary p. 1)

"Finally, a WS-1 classification is likely to have significant economic development benefits for Durham County and the City of Durham since it means that the water supply is among the most highly protected in the State. With future growth placing increasing demands on high quality water sources throughout the State, those areas with well-protected high quality drinking water supplies are likely to have an "edge" in attracting new industrial development." (Section 1 p.4)

"Because such a significant percentage of the watershed area is located within upstream jurisdictions, Durham County cannot effectively protect the water supply reservoirs without the cooperation of the other jurisdictions." (Section 1 p.5)

"In summary, a positive relationship between density/imperviousness and nonpoint pollution loadings has been demonstrated by many studies." "In addition to producing greater per acre loadings of stormwater pollution, impervious areas are also a concern because they are the most likely contributing area for toxic contaminants found in urban runoff." (Section 3 p.5)

There are lots of other interesting quotes from this study, charts, and diagrams. Anyway, that's why Lake Michie and Little River watersheds are limited to 6% impervious surface. Person County (upstream of Lake Michie) has development restrictions because of Durham's efforts. One more quote related to that:

"The fact that the upstream jurisdictions receive no direct benefit from water supply protection efforts is a major impediment to a watershed management program." (1-7)

Posted by TinaM on 05/07/2011 at 8:48 AM

Re: “Who's responsible for the Falls Lake mess?


It doesn’t matter who grew the most…it’s the fact that Falls Lake doesn’t meet water quality standards.

Southeast Durham is in the Falls Lake/Neuse watershed. This area is near HWY 98. You are confused with South or Southwest Durham which is in the Jordan Lake/Cape Fear watershed.

The Northside plant was built before Falls Lake was built. After Falls Lake was built, Durham dammed up Little River which holds back 20% of the entire Falls Lake watershed, water that would otherwise help flush out this shallow, slow flowing area of Falls Lake. Why didn’t Durham just get water from Falls Lake too?

Durham could build in North Durham. The soils are much better and they could successfully use Low Impact Development Practices.

It sounds like you are very frustrated with the building process in Durham. I understand your frustration as the soils in the rest of Durham are very difficult to build on. The Triassic soils are impervious and they don’t perc. Not all developers share your frustration. Regarding development in Durham, The Triangle Business Journal quotes David Lent-Beuws stating “Durham may be the most lenient city in the Triangle.” http://www.bizjournals.com/triangle/storie… Durham had a 25 square mile donut hole with no stormwater regs. The strange thing is that everyone else had to abide by these regs years ago. Durham just implemented it recently.

Frank Thomas from the HBA participated in Durham’s Environmental Enhancements to the UDO. I know it is his job to object to environmental regulations as it hurts the bottom line, but I think all those meetings ended up being a big waste of everyone’s time.

Years ago, before both Jordan Lakes and Falls Lakes were impounded, Triangle J Council of Governments TJ operated a Regional Water Resources Program that “consistently ranked as a top priority of its elected membership.” In 1974, TJ became the first agency in the United States to receive a water quality planning grant under Section 208 of the Federal Clean Water Act. Triangle j was primarily responsible for a strategy and guidelines for protecting the Falls and Jordan Lakes water quality from excessive suburban and industrial development. EPA phased out this 208 program in 1981. The recommendations for impervious surface restrictions, Low impact development practices (around since 1976), and regional approach to water quality were ignored.

Durham did become a leader in watershed protection…because Durham was worried about Person County developing upstream of Durham. Durham spent $100,000 on a study about protecting its watershed of Lake Michie and Little River in 1989. This is where the 6% impervious surface restriction comes from. Durham worked hard to impose restrictions on Person County’s growth.

All municipalities argue over money they have to spend. The Durham/Raleigh argument over clean water is not a new one. In 1993, The North Carolina General Assembly appropriated $150,000 for a thorough study of Falls Lake (Cadmus Report). Durham wanted to increase impervious surface in the Falls Watershed and Raleigh wasn’t pleased. There were already pollution problems in Falls Lake, especially in the upper portion of the lake. This study was ignored and now it is even going to be MORE EXPENSIVE to clean up.

I hope ALL MUNCIPALITIES do what they can to protect water downstream.

Posted by TinaM on 05/06/2011 at 9:23 PM

Re: “Who's responsible for the Falls Lake mess?

Durham has a large waste water treatment plant (Northside) that discharges into Ellerbe Creek. Ellerbe Creek is in violation of chlorophyll-a over 84% of the time. Discharging so many nutrients into one of the most sensitive area (shallow) of Falls Lake is a bad idea if you are considering water quality. The Northside plant now treats about 9 million gallons of waste each day, which is less than half of its 20 million gallon a day capacity. The new urban growth area in Durham is Southeast Durham, the water supply watershed for Falls Lake. Durham had a contract to build the largest regional master sewage pumping station about a mile from Falls Lake. This pumping station would then carry the waste to the Northside WWTP to discharge into Ellerbe Creek.

The economic downturn has thwarted development, but there are thousands of acres in the Falls lake watershed in East and Southeast Durham that are in the process of rezoning or have been rezoned. (MichaelB, you are missing some large subwatersheds...two major ones being Little Lick Creek and Lick Creek. HWY 70 is roughly the ridge line for the Falls Lake watershed in Durham). Durham is in the process of permitting a 3 million gallon elevated water tank ($4 million) to service the future development in that area. Durham has pushed off addressing the pollutants in the upper part of the lake because of cost, but Durham is also investing millions in infrastructure to develop in close proximity to the lake. Durham allows up to 70% impervious surface in the Falls Lake watershed (and Jordan Lake watershed) verses only 6% impervious surface in their own watersheds of Lake Michie and Little River. 1/5 of Durham County (North Durham) is in the Lake Michie/Little River watershed and no developments are allowed. If stormwater runoff isn’t a problem, then why doesn't Durham allow development in their watershed? The only place left for Durham to grow is in the watersheds of Falls Lake and Jordan Lake.

Unfortunately, these areas are also highly erosive Triassic Basin soils. Durham had meetings to discuss better development practices, such as bigger stream buffers (which are free), but the Homebuilders Assoc. is too powerful in Durham. The citizens will have to continue to pay for bad development practices with increased stormwater fees for Durham citizens, and increased rates to clean and filter water for Raleigh's water users.

All municipalities want to grow, I'm just saying they should grow responsibly. It is important for all municipalities to be conscientious about the water they are sending downstream. Development practices should keep stormwater on site too.

Posted by TinaM on 05/06/2011 at 11:39 AM

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