RALEIGH — Plans for a new sewage plant in the Granville County town of Creedmoor could jeopardize Raleigh’s efforts to get more drinking water from Falls Lake.
The Raleigh City Council voiced opposition to the Creedmoor plant last week. The city’s utilities department estimates the new plant would pull 500,000 gallons of water a day from Falls Lake – or roughly $10 million worth of drinking water from the lake’s capacity.
“This is a documented substantial impact,” said Kenny Waldroup, Raleigh’s assistant utilities director.
Creedmoor gets its water from Holt Lake in Butner as a partner in the South Granville Water and Sewer Authority. The authority also treats Creedmoor’s sewage; the clean water produced by that process goes into Falls Lake.
But the lake has costly pollution rules – municipalities that use it are required to bring the nitrogen level down 20 percent by 2016. The phosphorous level must be reduced 40 percent. That’s led to rising bills for Creedmoor residents.
“We have the unfortunate distinction of having some of the highest rates in North Carolina,” Mayor Darryl Moss said, adding that his town has gone to great lengths to keep Falls Lake clean. A recent infrastructure upgrade reduced the number of sewage pump stations by half to lower the chance of a spill.
Creedmoor wants to avoid further costs – and prepare for population growth – by building its own plant and piping its treated wastewater north to the Tar River. The town’s drinking water, however, would still come from the South Granville Water and Sewer Authority.
The loss of lake water could hurt Raleigh’s chances to increase its drinking water allocation from the reservoir. The state’s Division of Water Resources recently presented a plan to make millions of gallons more a day from Falls Lake available for treatment and use as city water.
That option could delay for decades Wake County’s plan to dam the Little River in eastern Wake as an additional water supply. Falls Lake is Raleigh’s main water source, but only 30 percent can be treated as drinking water; just 13 percent of the lake is allocated to the city. If state regulators approve, that would increase to 15 percent. The “water quality” pool, or percentage used to dilute pollution, would decrease.
Creedmoor’s plans, Waldroup told the council, “would diminish our ability to seek an alternative to the Little River reservoir.” Federal regulations require Raleigh to explore alternatives to damming the river that could have a smaller environmental impact.
Creedmoor leaders say they’re willing to consider alternatives to a new treatment plant. The South Granville Water and Sewer Authority hasn’t been able to commit to the additional capacity the growing town needs. Moss said the town also asked Raleigh about contracting to treat its sewage. The answer, he said, was no.
“We always would ask that if we’re getting cut off from one side we can get help from another,” Moss said. “We’re being held hostage in a situation that is well beyond our control.”
Raleigh will add its concerns to the project’s environmental assessment report released this month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service. Public comment on the report ends Feb. 5 as federal regulators begin reviewing the plans.
Campbell: 919-829-4802 or twitter.com/RaleighReporter