Permitted Wastewater Discharges Into The Haw River And Jordan Lake

Point Source Pollution:
Many cities and towns in the Haw River watershed, including Greensboro, Reidsville, Burlington, Chapel Hill, Durham and Pittsboro empty their treated wastewater into the Haw River or its tributaries. Although modern treatment plants are capable of discharging cleaner water than in the past, problems arise when equipment fails or when factories discharge unacceptable pollutants (including high nutrient levels) into the wastewater before treatment. Such failures can result in short toxic bursts into the river, which are dangerous to aquatic life. This source of pollution is a major cause of decline and extinction of endangered species of mussels and other river life. Excess nitrogen and phosphates in the wastewater provide nutrients for algae blooms. Many of the pharmaceuticals and chemicals in personal and home cleaning products are not removed in the treatment process and may be sources of carcinogens or endocrine disrupters. Another serious issue is that municipal wastewater treatment plants also treat wastewater from industries. Pre-treatment programs to capture heavy metals and chemicals only do part of the job, and many of the thousands of unregulated newer chemicals used in industry are not monitored or regulated, and end up in the effluent. All these pollutants also end up in the sewage sludge (bio-solids) that are land applied to agricultural pastures and fields and may be re-entering the creeks and river through run-off and migration through soil in stormwater events.

The total nutrient load in the Haw River and Jordan Lake from wastewater is contributing to the listing of several sections of the Haw– and all of Jordan Lake on the EPA 303(d) impaired waters list in 2006 and 2008. A TMDL has been written for the chlorophyll a impairment, but the waters are on the current list as impaired for pH and turbidity (caused by excessive algae). In 2009 state rules were finally passed into law to begin reducing pollution in all waters that drain to Jordan Lake –the vast majority of the Haw River watershed. These laws are meant to reduce nutrient pollution over time from all sources – wastewater treatment plants, development, agriculture, roads and existing cities and suburbs where stormwater controls are inadequate. Unfortunately, the implementation schedule for the rules has been weakened under the current legislature in NC for the past two years. From The Haw River Assembly