Committee hears Jordan Lake clean-up technology options – none very good

Posted by Craig Jarvis on March 19, 2014 

SolarBee handler Dave Winegar lowers the solar-powered reservoir circulator onto Lake Cochituate in Natick, Mass. Tests of the circulators in various places have achieved mixed results in controlling algae blooms.


Floating solar-powered devices that would circulate water in Jordan Lake is still the most cost-effective option to clean up the drinking supply and recreation spot.

That’s the word a committee of legislators received on Wednesday from a N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources official. But Tom Reeder, director of the state Division of Water Resources, said it would be a good idea to test two or three new technologies on a small scale to see what works the best.

Testing new clean-up technologies, most of which have been used at smaller lakes or wastewater treatment plants, will require more money from the legislature, Reeder said.

“Nobody has ever tried to do this on the scale of Jordan Lake before,” he said.

Of the nine options Reeder discussed with the committee, one struck him as potentially promising, although he said he wasn’t ready to recommend it yet: floating wetlands comprised of plants and microbes that would soak up harmful nutrients. But he said it would be costly and might have other drawbacks.

Last year lawmakers from the Triad, upstream of Jordan Lake, delayed requirements that had been years in the making to begin cleaning the lake of pollution from algae, and approved trying out three dozen solar devices instead. If successful, that would take some of the pressure off upstream municipalities to reduce their contribution to lake pollution.

Downstream municipalities are skeptical. On Tuesday, the Cary Town Council unanimously passed a resolution calling on legislators to reinstate the clean-up plans.

On Wednesday, Rep. Tom Murry, a Republican from Cary, said he wanted to see hard numbers about whether the solar devices are working or not. He said the committee should consider cost estimates for other options in time for the short session, which begins in May.

Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers has posted online its environmental assessment of the pilot project, finding no significant negatives.

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