Over $1B needed to clean up Falls Lake

Beaverdam Beach on Falls Lake
June 10, 2010 9:08:19 PM PDT
Decades of development has left Wake County's main supply of drinking water polluted with extremely high levels of phosphorous and nitrogen.The state is coming up with a plan to clean up Falls Lake that will take 25 years and cost $1.5 billion.

"Most of the costs will be incurred directly by the local governments," said Rich Gannon, planning supervisor with the Department of Water Quality under the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Gannon says most of the cost of cleaning up the lake will fall on the City and County of Durham, because that's where most of the pollution has come from.

"If I went and put trash in your backyard, you wouldn't pay the police to pick it up; you'd make me pick it up," Upper Neuse Riverkeeper Alsiss Beirma said. "Durham put the pollution there, they've got to get it out."

"I won't quibble with the idea that polluters should pay for their pollution," Assistant Durham County Manager Drew Cummings said. "There is a finite amount of money that taxpayers, not just in the city and county of Durham, but all upstream communities can pay for their priorities, which are many and which extend beyond clean water."

However, that doesn't sit well with Bierma.

"This isn't a trade-off," she said. "It can't be a trade-off. This isn't a financial negotiation."

"Some people don't have a compromising approach to this problem, but ultimately..the ultimate rules and the ultimate ways they're implemented will have to be a compromised position," Cummings added.

However it shakes out, Gannon says Falls Lake will be brought up to at least minimum environmental standards and there is no doubt taxpayers will be footing the bill.

Two public meetings will be held at the end of this month as the state comes up with a final set of rules to clean up the lake.

Click here to visit DENR's website for more details

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