Falls Lake in the Neuse River Basin provides drinking water for half a million Raleigh residents and for those living in Garner, Knightdale, Rolesville, Wake Forest, Wendell and Zebulon in Eastern Wake County. To ensure that residents have a healthy drinking water source, we must have a science-based solution rather than an experiment to control and address pollution in the lake.
Falls Lake has been declared impaired because of the stormwater runoff and wastewater discharged upstream that carry too much phosphorus and nitrogen into the lake. In 2012, the George Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability assembled scientists and ethicists to determine how to solve the problem of too much pollution, and the answer was common sense: Prevent it from entering the lake.
Unfortunately, rather than rely on a science-based prevention plan, House Bill 630 would introduce floating SolarBee water circulators into Falls Lake to see whether they improve water quality. SolarBee circulators would in no way prevent pollution from entering Falls Lake. They would simply aerate the water to reduce algae already in the lake.
These water circulators are not necessary and not worth taxpayer funds. We already have a science-based solution for restoring water quality in Falls Lake in place – the Falls Lake Rules, which were implemented in 2011 and aim to clean up the water by significantly reducing the amount of pollution entering the lake.
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The proposed legislation would study the usefulness of SolarBees and delay a proven method that will lead to a cleaner Falls Lake – a delay that would be a tremendous disservice to those of us who depend on the lake for our drinking water.
The bill is scheduled to be heard in the House Environment Committee on Tuesday, and we urge lawmakers not to make the same costly mistake for Falls Lake that was made for Jordan Lake, where 36 SolarBee circulators were placed last summer. In addition to questions about how effective they are in cleaning up Jordan Lake, several circulators have drifted astray in the lake.
The N.C. General Assembly should proceed with a proven scientific solution to protect our water reservoir rather than waste taxpayer money on an experimental method. Leading scientists in the area know what must be done to clean up Falls Lake, and the SolarBee experiment is definitely not the answer.
Karen Kemerait is a public utilities attorney and chairman of the Water Committee for WakeUP Wake County. Robert Y. George, Ph.D., is a retired professor of biology at UNC-Wilmington.