Six Upper Neuse Streams Added to Polluted List

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Six rivers in the Upper Neuse river basin are slated to join the state’s list of polluted streams, due to the Environmental Protection Agency April 1. The list, known as the 303d list, includes all streams that have failed water quality standards and do not yet have a cleanup plan.

This map shows streams with problems in red. The lightest blue streams have not been tested by the state. Click for larger view.

The state has sampled fewer than one-third of the nearly 13,000 streams in North Carolina, according to Cam McNutt, environmental technician with the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The EPA does not require a complete inventory.

DENR, he said, is focused on streams with point source discharges, such as wastewater treatment plant, and streams where they have access. County and city governments may test streams within their jurisdiction, as Raleigh does.

Every stream monitored under Raleigh’s volunteer monitoring program has tested positive for water quality problems, including bacteria potentially from human, pet, and wildlife feces or leaky sewer pipes.

Urban Streams
Urban streams across the nation fail water quality assessments.

“Streams draining downtown Raleigh are probably not in very good shape and probably haven’t been since the city was built,” McNutt said.

The state doesn’t use Raleigh’s data because it does not meet the state’s gathering and testing requirements.

pigeon house creek

Charles Duncan / Raleigh Public Record

Pigeon House Creek

However, according to the city’s website, the data enables Raleigh to respond when a problem is detected such as high bacteria levels, which could indicate a sewer leak.

Upper Neuse Riverkeeper Mathew Starr said there have been some successes.

“In pictures from 10 years ago [Rocky Branch Creek] looked terrible. It was degraded. The state has done, and City of Raleigh, some excellent work,” he said. “It is a good example of how we can improve our urban waterways.”

While Wake County tests local beaches and drinking water wells, testing does not include its streams. Melinda Clark, stormwater programs manager for Wake County, said, “It is a state responsibility. It is a huge effort.”

Next Steps
Governments and nonprofits use the 303d list to prioritize streams for protection and restoration.

“One thing that is looked at in prioritizing stream corridors is level of impairment,” Clark said. “And we can use it to protect high-quality water sources.”

Rivers are removed from the list if the problem is resolved or if a plan to fix the problem is implemented.

Plans may target a pollutant, such as nitrogen, for reduction. That type of plan is called a total maximum daily load, but may take years to fix water quality issues.

Streams with aquatic life problems, McNutt said, may “lack good habitat and experience hydrological overload—very heavy storm loads that scour the stream and remove habitat.”

Rain-related problems are reduced by preventing the rapid increase in water volume—reducing the amount of covered land so soil can absorb rain water or harvesting rainwater in barrels and cisterns.

This year, six rivers in the upper Neuse River Basin were added for aquatic life, dissolved oxygen, or fish community problems.

Public comments on the 303d list are being accepted through March 14.


5 thoughts on “Six Upper Neuse Streams Added to Polluted List

  1. I recommend a follow-up with Kenny Waldroup and Dan McLawhorn with Raleigh’s Public Utilities. Nobody understands the current status and way ahead for our local waters better than them.

  2. It should be noted that NC State University paid a good portion towards the renovation of Rocky Branch. The project wouldn’t have happened without the persistent good work of Barbara Doll, a staff member of NC Sea Grant and graduate of the university, and Jack Colby, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Facilities Operations.

  3. David Dean thank you for the shout out! The project was implemented by NC State University and NC Sea Grant. Funding was provided by numerous state, federal and local agencies including:
    o NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund
    o NC Department of Transportation
    o Environmental Protection Agency (through NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources, DENR)
    o City of Raleigh
    o Federal Emergency Management Agency
    o NC Division of Water Resources, DENR
    o NC State University

  4. Quick list of the six streams below. For more detail see the 303d draft at
    In the list at the link, look for the column labeled “303d Year” to identify the streams that are new for 2014.

    Beddingfield Creek
    From source to Neuse River
    Benthos Fair (Nar, AL, FW)

    Middle Creek
    From dam at Sunset Lake to small impoundment upstream of US 401
    Fish Community Poor (Nar, AL, FW)

    Mill Creek (Moorewood Pond)
    From source to Stone Creek
    Dissolved Oxygen (4 mg/l, AL, FW)

    Snipes Creek
    From source to Little River
    Dissolved Oxygen (4 mg/l, AL, FW)

    Unnamed Tributary to Mine Creek
    Source to Mine Creek
    Benthos Poor (Nar, AL, FW)

    Unnamed Tributary to Swift Creek (Lake Benson)
    From Source to Lake Benson
    Benthos Fair (Nar, AL, FW)