SolarBees

Jordan Lake, Durham, NC
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill and environmental groups are raising concerns over a new effort on campus created by the General Assembly.

Photo: Jordan Lake
Flickr user Jeremy Taylor

Senate Republicans are proposing eliminating the state’s protections for drinking water from Jordan and Falls lakes, in favor of new measures that could allow polluters to dump into the stream and could treat the water by introducing mussels to potentially feed off pollutants.

A SolarBee
Medora Corporation

The Department of Environmental Quality has pulled the plug on SolarBees.

DEQ says it's removing the devices from Jordan Lake. SolarBees have been churning water at several spots on the lake in an attempt to reduce algae blooms, but a report from DEQ says there has been no improvement in water quality. 

The agency is reevaluating other measures that would limit runoff from the surrounding area, but developers are pushing back. 

State Officials To Scrap SolarBee Project On Jordan Lake

May 6, 2016
A SolarBee
Medora Corporation

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality announced it will halt the SolarBee pilot project, saying the floating mixers are not improving water quality in Jordan Lake.

Launched two years ago, the SolarBee project was intended to prevent the growth of algae in the lake. But state officials say there’s been no significant improvement in water quality.

Environmental advocates agree.

A SolarBee
Medora Corporation

North Carolina is home to seven natural lakes. Jordan Lake—despite its name—is not one of them. It’s a reservoir, created in 1974.

And almost from the day it was first dammed, Jordan Lake has been impaired.

Jordan Lake, Durham, NC
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Two proposals in the State Legislature would have a significant impact on the so-called Jordan Lake Rules. The rules were passed in 2009 and were designed to reduce polluted runoff into the lake, among other regulations. Jordan Lake has been on the federal list of impaired waterways since 2002.

One provision in the current Senate budget would delay the implementation of the Jordan Lake Rules for two years. The rules have been delayed previously in 2011, 2012, and 2013.

The state commission overseeing plans to treat pollution in Jordan Lake did not make any recommendations during its last meeting.
JT Taylor / Flickr/Creative Commons

State environmental officials are overseeing the installation of special machines in Jordan Lake starting today. 

SolarBees are water circulators intended to prevent algae from storm water runoff from forming in the lake.  Installers are placing a total of 36 machines: 12 in the Haw River arm of the lake and 24 more in the Morgan Creek tributary.  

Susan Massengale is a spokeswoman with the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources.  She says this step begins 18 months of water testing.