As Creedmoor looks at alternatives to a new sewage plant that could reduce water levels in Falls Lake, Raleigh officials say they can’t help the small town’s utility needs.
With Raleigh opposed to Creedmoor’s plans to pipe its treated wastewater north to the Tar River, leaders of the Granville County community hope their larger neighbor might treat its waste through a contract.
That option wouldn’t work, said Kenny Waldroup, Raleigh’s assistant utilities director. Raleigh puts its treated wastewater downstream, so that alternative is no better than the Tar River plan. In order to prepare for growth, the city needs Creedmoor to continue contributing to Falls Lake’s water supply.
But Waldroup said the city will work with Creedmoor as it tries to address its own growth and rising utility costs. “We did leave the door open to innovative solutions,” he said. “We think that perhaps there are some options with (the town’s current sewage provider) and Creedmoor that have not been fully explored.”
As a member of the South Granville Water and Sewer Authority, Creedmoor gets drinking water from Lake Holt in Butner. The authority also treats Creedmoor’s sewage; the clean water produced by that process goes into Falls Lake.
But the lake has costly pollution rules – municipalities that use it are required to bring the nitrogen level down 20 percent by 2016. The phosphorous level must be reduced 40 percent. That’s led to rising bills for Creedmoor residents.
“We have the unfortunate distinction of having some of the highest rates in North Carolina,” Mayor Darryl Moss said, adding that his town has gone to great lengths to keep Falls Lake clean. A recent infrastructure upgrade reduced the number of sewage pump stations by half to lower the chance of a spill.
Having its own wastewater plant would avoid those costs and prepare Creedmoor for more residents and businesses. But after a unanimous vote from the Raleigh City Council, the city is voicing its opposition with federal regulators. The city’s utilities department estimates the new plant would pull 500,000 gallons of water a day from Falls Lake – or roughly $10 million worth of drinking water from the lake’s capacity.
The loss of lake water could hurt Raleigh’s chances to increase its drinking water allocation from the reservoir. The state’s Division of Water Resources recently presented a plan to make millions of gallons more a day from Falls Lake available for treatment and use as city water.
That option could delay for decades Wake County’s plan to dam the Little River in eastern Wake as an additional water supply. Falls Lake is Raleigh’s main water source, but only 30 percent can be treated as drinking water; just 13 percent of the lake is allocated to the city. If state regulators approve, that would increase to 15 percent. The “water quality” pool, or percentage used to dilute pollution, would decrease.
Creedmoor’s plans, Waldroup told the council, “would diminish our ability to seek an alternative to the Little River reservoir.” Federal regulations require Raleigh to explore alternatives to damming the river that could have a smaller environmental impact.
Creedmoor leaders say they’re willing to consider alternatives to a new treatment plant. The South Granville Water and Sewer Authority hasn’t been able to commit to the additional capacity the growing town needs, Moss said. If Raleigh opposes the new plant, it should offer another solution, he added.
“We always would ask that if we’re getting cut off from one side we can get help from another,” Moss said. “We’re being held hostage in a situation that is well beyond our control.”