Land conservation project includes hog waste lagoon cleanup

sbarr@newsobserver.comJune 29, 2014 

— A land conservation project in southern Granville County will come with an added water quality bonus: the cleanup of an abandoned hog waste lagoon.

The Tar River Land Conservancy has finalized its purchase of a 154-acre parcel outside of Creedmoor. A small hog operation took place on a portion of it.

Robertson Creek runs through the land before converging with Falls Lake, the city of Raleigh’s primary source of drinking water, about a mile downstream.

The conservancy will keep the land free from development to protect water quality downstream, though some public recreation features, such as greenways, could be added.

With state and county help, the conservancy also will empty the land’s lagoon, a pond that’s 175 feet by 112 feet and filled with about 600,000 galloons of water. At the bottom of its 10-foot depth is about a foot of, in the most polite terms, “organic materials.”

The lagoon was last used in the mid-1980s.

The lagoon is a risk because of its nitrogen and phosphorous concentrations, which are above what’s allowed by water quality regulations, said Derek Halberg, executive director of the conservancy. The levels are not in danger of rising because the hog operation ceased so long ago.

The lagoon acts as a kind of holding pond for the nitrogen and phosphorus introduced with the hog manure decades ago. But if the pond dam were ruptured because of a falling tree, or if the water overflowed because of a storm those components could make their way into a tributary of Robertson Creek and then downstream, said Halberg.

The nitrogen and phosphorus could make the water undrinkable, or drive up the costs of treating it, he said.

The project has drawn great interest from local partners and other organizations because it conserves land andeliminates a threat.

“It has great potential to protect downstream water consumers,” Halberg said.

Once the lagoon is pumped empty, the water and waste likely will be sprayed as a fertilizer on nearby pastures.

Buster Towell, a senior environmental specialist with the water resources division at the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said the lagoon is not unusual. Many lagoons that haven’t been in use since the 1970s or 1980s are scattered throughout the state.

Overall, the land the conservancy bought features 98 acres of forest, 34 acres of beaver wetlands and 22 acres of abandonded pastrue and crop land that is reverting to woods.

The conservancy purchased the parcel from the Haynes and Suitt families with funding from the cities of Raleigh and Creedmoor and the state’s recently reconfigured Clean Water Management Trust Fund.

Barr: 919-836-4952; Twitter: @barrmsarah

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