Water quality in Triangle at risk as massive development advances

SELC, partners go to court to protect drinking water

Jordan Lake provides drinking water for a large portion of residents in North Carolina’s Triangle region. (© Getty)

There are a lot of moving pieces to establishing a 55,000-person development on the outskirts of a town with a current population of 4,000. The Town of Pittsboro is in the midst of juggling these changes and a lawsuit filed today by SELC looks to ensure drinking water quality doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

Today’s filing, made on behalf of the Haw River Assembly, was a motion to intervene with the Office of Administrative Hearings in proceedings over whether the small Town of Pittsboro will honor its commitments to protect the Haw River and Jordan Lake, a drinking water reservoir for over 300,000 Triangle residents, from the impacts of the massive new development known as Chatham Park.

Adding 55,000 new residents to a town of 4,000 people and developing over 7,000 acres will result in more pollution into nearby streams, the Haw River, and into Jordan Lake, the drinking water source for 300,000 people,” said SELC Attorney Brooks Rainey Pearson. “Pittsboro should honor its commitment to protect our waterways. Dodging responsibility is unacceptable when communities downstream will suffer from this massive development’s pollution.”

As part of its application to expand the town’s wastewater treatment plant to accommodate new growth, the Town of Pittsboro agreed to certain mitigation measures to protect water quality. A letter from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality to the Town of Pittsboro on May 3, 2018 notified Pittsboro that it was expected to fulfill these commitments to prevent harm to Haw River, or face re-opening of its permit. Chatham Park and the Town of Pittsboro responded by petitioning for contested case hearings at the Office of Administrative Hearings.

In its permit application, Pittsboro committed to conservation measures and stormwater mitigation strategies that would help offset the dramatic increase in paved surface areas from the addition of 23-million square feet of commercial space and 27,570 residential dwelling units on the banks of the Haw River.

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