The more than 300,000 people in the western Triangle who rely on Jordan Lake for their drinking water got a message from the General Assembly last week: Let them drink blame.
In this case, blame comes in the flavor of blue-green algae that is blooming in the lake because of increasing levels of nitrogen and phosphorus flowing in from areas upstream, primarily from Burlington and Greensboro.
State and local officials and citizens worked for years to develop requirements known as the Jordan Lake rules to limit upstream pollutants. Most local governments in the watershed have taken steps to comply, but some in Guilford and Alamance counties have resisted. They say the rules limit how their land can be used for residential and industrial development and require costly changes to wastewater treatment and stormwater control systems.
Now forces in the General Assembly are pushing an argument that Jordan Lake was poorly designed and will inevitably be subject to algae blooms. They say, let’s drop – or at least suspend – the rules and see what can be done to treat water in the lake itself. In other words, don’t blame our runoff from development and agriculture and our wastewater discharges. Blame the Army Corps of Engineers for designing the lake without building in ways to absorb runoff and nutrients from the explosive development that followed the lake’s opening 20 years ago.