NC Senate Bill 515 – Threat to Jordan Lake

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Story and photo by Lindsey Chester.

Cary, NC – Wake Up!Wake hosted a panel discussion at Doherty’s Irish Pub in Cary last week to address resident concerns about NC Senate bill 515, repealing water quality treatment regulations for Jordan Lake.

Power Panel

A large crowd filled the restaurant despite the short notice. A power-panel of area legislators expressed their concerns about this bill, which essentially voids all previously negotiated water quality guidelines for Jordan Lake that have been in work for the last 7 years.

The panel included Holly Springs Mayor Dick Sears, Morrisville Mayor Pro-Tem, Liz Johnson, NC Representative Tom Murry, NC Senator Tamara Barringer and Peter Raabe of American Rivers, who each spoke and answered questions from the audience.

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S-515 passed quickly in the NC Senate, and has moved to a House committee before heading for a vote there.

Senator Barringer explained her surprise and the speed with which this new bill was passed in the Senate and her hopes that the bill will not move out of committee in the NC State House. The concern is that as the water regulations are repealed for Jordan Lake, there will be no regulations put in their place, only a promise of a committee to study the pollution and effects of run-off on the lake.

Read S-515 on NCGA.gov, the website of the North Carolina General Assembly.

The Importance of Jordan Lake

300,000 people in the Triangle draw their drinking water from Jordan Lake. The lake is a major area recreation facility with camp grounds, boating, fishing and two swimming beaches. It is a watershed for wildlife from largemouth bass to bald eagles.

For Cary, Apex and Morrisville homeowners and businesses, Jordan Lake represents our water supply.  Cary is currently building an expansion of the current water treatment plant in partnership with Apex and Morrisville.

Upriver from Cary

Who benefits from this bill? That was the question on the minds of the audience. Cary, along with neighboring towns and area developers, has already been complying with water regulations that affect Jordan Lake. Some towns upstream from Western Wake are also moving to comply with proposed future regulations.

The fear is that if the current regulations are lifted, then anything in motion will stop. Without any regulations, towns that draw drinking water from the lake may bear the full cost of clean up that is caused by industry and runoff from upstream.

Sponsors of the senate bill were Rick Gunn and Trudy Wade. Gunn is a Republican from Burlington elected to Senate District 24 representing Alamance and Randolph Counties. Wade is a Republican living in Greensboro elected to represent District 27 which includes Guilford County.

Serious Questions

Liz Johnson, Mayor Pro-Tem of Morrisville said the one question she is asked about water is: “Is my water safe? Safe to drink? Safe to bathe? Safe to wash my clothes? We take those questions seriously”.

Not only is Jordan Lake an important drinking water source, but Senator Barringer also pointed out it is a major recreational attraction, and a driver of economic development.

Who Pays for Clean Up?

Barringer said that area legislators have crafted legislation that addresses Storm water run-off at the site, meaning where it occurs (be that an industrial park, retail establishment, homeowners subdivision etc.).

Barringer went on to say she is concerned that Senate bill 515 will put a burden on the communities that use the lake as their water supply with undue extra clean up necessary to have safe drinking water.

Fix It, Don’t Scrap It

NC Representative Tom Murry stated that if there is state-wide concern with the existing rules for Jordan Lake, that the State House should work on fixing those rules rather than what is currently proposed, a full repeal of those regulations.

36 Hours Notice

Another concern of Barringer and other area legislators was the lack of notice before this bill came before the NC Senate floor for a vote.

Barringer described a race to block a bill that had been moved forward with only 36 hours to address concerns. She tried to gather a coalition to beat the bill, but lost that battle in the Senate.

Senator Barringer asked Representative Tom Murry to also block the bill in the House. Murry expressed confidence that the bill won’t move out of committee.

Dick Sears, Mayor of Holly Springs, put it this way:

” It (the bill) makes no sense. Although Holly Springs does not get its water from Jordan Lake… (Holly Springs) doesn’t want a cesspool in the middle of where we live.”

What You Can Do

If you are concerned about Jordan Lake and your water supply, write or email members of the NC House of Representatives and let them know your thoughts. Visit NC General Assembly: Who Represents Me.

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Jordan Lake photo by Hal Goodtree.

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2 replies
  1. Brent
    Brent says:

    It is nauseating that our legislators would summarily throw out a decade of careful thought and compromise (the Jordan Lake rules) and put hundreds of thousands of people at genuine risk just to make some weird ideological point.

    If Rep. Murry and Sen. Barringer and their colleagues were more consistent, this wouldn’t be a problem (Rep. Murry and Sen. Barringer have supported numerous environmental destruction bills that didn’t happen to pollute their own drinking water).

    I do not understand why so-called “conservatives” want to roll back virtually every form of environmental protection enacted in North Carolina in the past few years. And I don’t understand how an elected official can oppose repealing the Jordan Lake rules while simultaneously enthusiastically supporting thing such as gutting all of the state’s environmental protection boards and commissions, taking away the rights of municipalities to protect their own environmental resources and accelerate poisoning our groundwater via fracking.

    Kudos to those who oppose repealing the Jordan Lake rules — but shame on those (who often are the same people) who are fine with other forms of environmental destruction that might not have quite as much immediate political fallout.

  2. Mark Gary Blumenthal, MD, MPH
    Mark Gary Blumenthal, MD, MPH says:

    If S-515 becomes law, who and what will guarantee the safety and potability of Cary’s drinking water, the source of which is Jordan Lake?

    I read the bill in all of iterations and the answer is ‘no one and nothing’.

    Jordan Lake does indeed have inherent structural problems that will worsen if not corrected but S-515 approaches the Lake’s problems ‘bass-ackwards’.

    I especially object to Section I:1:(4) that states ‘A completely new approach … which can only be done by first achieving a complete repeal of the existing session laws and rules that address nutrient management standards within the Lake basin’.

    Repeal first and study later?

    That’s not what I learned during as a graduate student in public health and public policy thirty years ago.

    I learned to ‘study first and repeal if indicated by the results of study and analysis’.

    P.S. I’m merely a naive, double-boarded physician trained in family medicine, preventive medicine and public health who taught undergraduate and graduate students about environmental health sciences before I became a physician.

    Moreover, I do know how to read legislation and this bill would replace seventeen years of regulatory law with … a wish and a prayer.

    Try again, Rep. Murray and Sen. Barringer when you learn how to conduct a proper environmental impact study.

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