North Carolina – Opening the Door to Green Infrastructure

On the last day of June NC Governor Beverly Perdue signed into law a bill that will begin the process of cleaning up the popular Jordan Lake in the Research Triangle area of NC. 

The lake was in trouble from day one with predictions of high pollution levels if the US Army Corps of Engineers went ahead with the plan.  The lake was built anyway.  Further problems resulted from the subsequent, rapid development of the watershed just north of the lake, particularly around its streams, the Haw River and New Hope Creek.

The lake became listed as a polluted water body by the EPA in 2002.  Samples showed high levels of chlorophyll, the result of unhealthy levels of algae feeding off the pollution caused by stormwater runoff.  Fortunately, this law sets in place rules that state and local governments must use to begin restoring the health of this valuable resource.

There are three major components of the rules:
1) Wastewater utilities in the Haw River must upgrade their treatment facilities by 2016 to reduce the amount of pollution contributed to the system.
2) New development that occurs in the watershed must meet stricter requirements including controlling stormwater runoff and leaving adequate buffers along tributary creeks.
3) Existing development must retrofit stormwater controls to reduce the pollution it contributes to the system.

The third component is truly a breakthrough for clean water in that it will be the first time that retrofits will be required without any redevelopment going on.  Though the rules do not explicitly call for 21st century green infrastructure, using green infrastructure is the smart and likely solution.  This law will spur the large scale adoption of green infrastructure in central NC.  What’s more?  These rules will set the precedent to clean up other man-made lakes throughout the state. 

For more info and to follow this project, check out the Clean Jordan Lake website!