Will Developers Take Control of Our Water Quality?

Thanks to Anna McKenzie of Creative Loafing for this important report!

On Monday, September 22, Charlotte City Council has planned a Public Hearing that will, for the most part, determine the future water quality of our area lakes, streams and rivers.

For more information, see Will Charlotte Continue to Weaken Storm Water Controls? and Charlotte Stormwater Pollution – Harming Our Lakes, Streams and Rivers

Will you speak out at the Public Hearing on Sept 22nd?

How To Sign Up to Speak at a Council Meeting

Call the City Clerk’s Office at 704-336-2248 and request to speak by giving your name, full address, daytime telephone, and subject. This information is placed on a Speaker’s List for the Mayor to follow during the meeting. During the Council meeting, as your name is called, approach the speaker’s stand and begin. The City Clerk’s timer will ring when your time is up.  See Official Rules below.

Visit the City Clerk’s Office
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, 7th Floor
600 East Fourth St.
Charlotte, NC 28202

Web On line Speaker Sign-Up Form

Fax your name, address, daytime phone number and subject to 704-336-7588

For more information on this issue, see 81% of Total Mecklenburg Watershed Considered Unfit – Support Strong Stormwater Regulations!, Will Charlotte Continue to Weaken Storm Water Controls? and Charlotte Stormwater Pollution – Harming Our Lakes, Streams and Rivers

Developers vs. the Environment

Murky Waters Ahead
By Ana McKenzie
Sept 17, 2014

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At the end of October, City Council will vote on a measure that has pitted the interests of the development industry against reducing pollution in Charlotte’s already-degraded streams and creeks, which flow into the Catawba River.

Polluted water from development and redevelopment sites that the ground doesn’t absorb — otherwise known as storm water — runs into Charlotte’s stream and creek network. Often containing oil and heavy metals from car fluid as well as trash, such as plastic bottles, storm water is controlled by an ordinance City Council passed in 2007. Numerous stakeholder groups, including environmental advocates and developers, met in 2004 through 2005 to create the Post-Construction Controls Ordinance, which is intended to mitigate storm water around construction sites. This comes after years of mismanagement: Charlotte’s stream and creek network regularly receives failing grades from regulators, and mismanaged runoff from development and redevelopment is partially why a national river-conservation group dubbed the Catawba, which all local streams and creeks flow into, the most endangered river in the U.S. in 2008.

The PCO, as the ordinance is called, went into effect in 2008. Its requirements vary depending on which of the local 18 watershed districts — think of them as neighborhoods in which water flows — that storm water from sites runs into. For example, developers working near the Western Catawba Watershed District, which drains into Lake Norman, Mountain Island Lake and Lake Wylie, are required to install water-treatment systems at the site of the pollution, as opposed to off-site, and maintain a certain distance from streams and creeks.

But developers working around transit stations and in “distressed business districts” — or economically distressed parts of town as determined by Neighborhood and Business Services — are allowed to pay a fee of $60,000 per impervious acre, or artificial surfaces such as pavement, instead of installing storm water controls at their sites. The fee goes toward improving the various watersheds around Charlotte, constructing wetlands and pond rehabilitation, among other projects.

In 2011, after developers complained about too much red tape, City Council voted to temporarily extend the mitigation fee, or “fee-in-lieu,” to every part of Charlotte in order to encourage redevelopment in the midst of the economic recession. The rate structure also changed — $60,000 per the first impervious acre and $90,000 per additional acre — to deter abuse.

Roughly half of the 105 redeveloping sites that have been eligible to use the fee since 2011 have opted for it. The city “considers this evidence that the fee is set at exactly the right amount to encourage on-site control of runoff, but to also provide a cost saving option to developers.”

In April, the city advocated for the fee-in-lieu in a PowerPoint presentation during a City Council Environment Committee meeting. In one of the slides is a sentence from an EPA manual: “Experience has shown that requiring developers to install individual on-site detention and water quality facilities can lead to a regulatory and/or maintenance problem for a local government. Alternative regional solutions may be more efficient and reliable in controlling runoff volumes and pollutant discharges into public stormwater systems and streams.” The city argued that even the EPA was in favor of the fee.

But here’s the next sentence, which wasn’t included in the slide show: “However, on-site systems are typically funded by the developers whereas the general public usually pays for regional systems. An issue of equity arises if general taxpayers or ratepayers have to fund regional solutions to mitigate the impacts of private development projects rather than requiring on-site control.”

The EPA says controlling storm water on a construction site is the best way to manage pollution versus allowing pollution to flow through creeks and be treated later. But on-site controls can be expensive and can create cost uncertainty for developers.

Rick Roti, a corporate lawyer and president of Charlotte Public Tree Fund, participated in the stakeholder groups that drafted the Post-Construction Control Ordinance. When the fee-in-lieu was added, he enlisted the help of then-mayor Anthony Foxx to fight what he and many others considered too much involvement from the development community in the ordinance.

“Even though they [developers] sat on the committee … they immediately started working against adoption of the ordinance and trying to weaken it,” Roti said. “They started calling politicians, working with [city] staff, working to provide information on why it was such a bad idea.” The fee was added. “The development community has more money, more resources, than we do.”

Before it was supposed to sunset in April of this year, City Council directed Storm Water Services to determine whether to extend the fee-in-lieu another five years and present their findings to the Council’s Environment Committee in August.

Staff determined that the fee should be extended but, as a compromise, added that the city could require filters around vehicle-heavy areas, like parking lots, that would capture what they refer to as “secondary pollution,” or non-chemical runoff like trash. Otherwise, the trash ends up in streams and creeks and becomes a very visible problem. (Storm Water Services, which focuses on controlling primary pollution, such as chemicals, says it has no way of determining how much secondary pollution winds up in streams and creeks.)

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At their meeting in August, Environment Committee members David Howard, a Democrat, and Republicans Ed Driggs and Kenny Smith endorsed city staff’s recommendations to extend the fee-in-lieu, which will come to a City Council vote on Oct. 27. Chairman John Autry voted against the extension, and member Claire Fallon was not at the meeting.

As for the filters, arguing it was the first time committee members had ever heard of them, Howard, who works for an affordable-housing developer, asked staff to provide more information on their technology during the next meeting, which occurred Wednesday, Sept. 10.

The Environment Committee, a City Council subcommittee tasked with protecting quality of life as it relates to the environment, could have voted to endorse the filters during the meeting on Wednesday. Instead, Smith and Driggs favored subtracting from the fee-in-lieu the cost of incorporating filters into a construction site. During the discussion, Driggs asked an attending representative of REBIC, a powerful lobbying group in Charlotte that represents the real estate and development industry, for his opinion. “We prefer to have a clean extension of the mitigation fee but we can live with the recommendation [to implement filters].”

During his presentation Daryl Hammock, assistant division manager at Storm Water Services, said the city could live without them. “Primary pollutants are what we’re held to account for. If we want to do it [the filters] as a solution, that’s great. If we don’t want to do it at all, that’s great too.” The general consensus is that the filters are dead in the water.

Hammock, who is tasked with restoring Charlotte’s creeks and streams, said after the meeting that the fee-in-lieu is a sound way to balance development and redevelopment in Charlotte with protecting the environment. “It’s better environmentally, under current economics, for the developers to pay a fee than it is for them to control on site,” he said. “For some developers, cost doesn’t matter much. For some developments, cost is everything.”

He offered a hypothetical example of someone redeveloping a restaurant in a shopping mall in a part of town with fewer such projects, like east Charlotte. “You need to make sure costs are held as low as possible.”

Businesses that have taken advantage of the fee-in-lieu include retailer Cato during a facility expansion, a bank, a 307-unit residential apartment building and various gas stations and auto malls.

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After the late August meeting in which the Environment Committee endorsed extending the fee-in-lieu without the filters, the Catawba Riverkeeper, Sustain Charlotte, the Sierra Club and Charlotte Tree Fund penned a letter to City Council strongly urging against the full body’s approval of the extension.

“The vast majority of damage to our waterways is caused by runoff from impervious areas,” the letter said. “Our population growth has resulted in exponential growth in impervious cover and runoff that has turned many of our local streams into muddy, contaminant-laden ditches.

“The PCO’s fee-in-lieu provision was meant to be a temporary measure to encourage redevelopment during the economic downturn. Why do we need to extend it further? Development is booming again in Charlotte, and with increased traffic in areas now seeing redevelopment, now is the time to ensure that sites implement post-construction storm water measures that will rehabilitate our waterways.”

This story has been corrected. Pollution from streams and creeks flows into the Catawba River, not Mountain Island Lake, which is Charlotte’s drinking-water source.

http://clclt.com/charlotte/developers-vs-the-environment/Content?oid=3534215

 

81% of Total Mecklenburg Watershed Considered Unfit – Support Strong Stormwater Regulations!

303d map 2012

“In Mecklenburg County, 81% of the total supporting watershed are considered unfit for their supplementary use of recreation.”

For months now the Charlotte environmental and sustainability community, including Catawba RiverkeeperCharlotte Public Tree Fund, Sierra Club Central Piedmont Group, and Sustain Charlotte, have reached out to the Charlotte City Council and City Stormwater Staff and urged them NOT TO WEAKEN our stormwater protection. The Post-Construction Stormwater Ordinance (PCO) is a key regulation to stop stormwater runoff, protect our stream banks and trees, and help to reduce reduce pollution following into our streams, rivers, and lakes.

Want to learn about our Water Quality and Stormwater issues? Click below for information from the Environmental Assistance Office at UNCC.

On Monday, September 22, Charlotte City Council has planned a Public Hearing that will, for the most part, determine the future water quality of our area lakes, streams and rivers. More information on the hearing to follow. Check back often.

For more information, see Will Charlotte Continue to Weaken Storm Water Controls? and Charlotte Stormwater Pollution – Harming Our Lakes, Streams and Rivers

How To Sign Up to Speak at a Council Meeting

Call the City Clerk’s Office at 704-336-2248 and request to speak by giving your name, full address, daytime telephone, and subject. This information is placed on a Speaker’s List for the Mayor to follow during the meeting. During the Council meeting, as your name is called, approach the speaker’s stand and begin. The City Clerk’s timer will ring when your time is up.  See Official Rules below.

Visit the City Clerk’s Office
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, 7th Floor
600 East Fourth St.
Charlotte, NC 28202

Web On line Speaker Sign-Up Form

Fax your name, address, daytime phone number and subject to 704-336-7588

Char StormwaterStorm Water EAO Newsletter Oct 2011

Char Water QualityWater Quality EAO Newsletter May 2013

 

Mark Your Calendar – Global Fackdown on Oct 11

“If you care about the drinking water where you live, you owe it to yourself to join Global Frackdown. The EPA may have taken its eye off the ball, but many good people around the world are refusing to stand by while the oil and gas industries recklessly threaten our drinking water. Global Frackdown Day is a good opportunity to find out who’s fighting that good fight in your own community and learn more about what’s at stake.”

    ~ Michael Brune, Fracking: The Other EPA Shutdown
Stay tuned for more information about events in Charlotte! If you would like to be part of a planning team for this day, please contact Bill Gupton.
Global Frackdown Oct 11 2014

“Fracking” has become synonymous with the ways in which the oil and gas industry:

  • Fragments forests and mars landscapes with new roads, new well sites and new pipelines and other infrastructure
  • Produces huge amounts of toxic and even radioactive waste, the disposal of which causes earthquakes and risks drinking water resources
  • Causes thousands of accidents, leaks and spills each year that threaten public health and safety and risk rivers, streams and shallow aquifers
  • Pumps hazardous pollutants into the air, at the expense of local communities, families and farms
  • Turns homes into explosive hazards by contaminating water wells with methane and other harmful gases
  • Consumes millions of gallons of water for each fracked well, competing with farmers for local water supplies
  • Puts vital aquifers at risk for generations by creating new pathways through which contaminants – including the chemicals injected, radioactive brines and methane and other hydrocarbon gases – can flow over long periods of time
  • Threatens the climate on which we all depend by dumping carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, and by locking in future climate pollution with each new infrastructure project
  • Delays the remaking of local and regional energy systems around proven clean solutions, using high-paid lobbyists, political campaign war chests and public relations flacks to stifle progress and prolong our dependence on oil and gas
  • Enjoys enormous profits padded by billions of dollars a year in needless subsidies, at all of our expense.

The fight against fracking is the fight for an altogether different vision for the future of energy. It is the fight for democratic and localized energy systems, built on the efficient use of abundant and renewable energy resources.

Check out the links below to learn more about why you should join the Global Frackdown and help keep unconventional oil and gas safely underground.

Research/Reports:

Information from: http://www.globalfrackdown.org/research/

Will Charlotte Continue to Weaken Storm Water Controls?

For months now the Charlotte environmental and sustainability community, including Catawba RiverkeeperCharlotte Public Tree Fund, Sierra Club Central Piedmont Group, and Sustain Charlotte, have reached out to the Charlotte City Council and City Stormwater Staff and urged them NOT TO WEAKEN our stormwater protection. The Post-Construction Stormwater Ordinance (PCO) is a key regulation to stop stormwater runoff, protect our stream banks and trees, and help to reduce reduce pollution following into our streams, rivers, and lakes.

Take a moment and click below to read WHAT and WHY we asking City Council NOT TO WEAKEN our stormwater protection.

On Monday, September 22, Charlotte City Council has planned a Public Hearing that will, for the most part, determine the future water quality of our area lakes, streams and rivers. More information on the hearing to follow. Check back often.

See also: Charlotte Stormwater Pollution – Harming Our Lakes, Streams and Rivers

September 4 Joint Letter

PCO Letter Sept 4 2014 PCO Joint Comments Sept 4 2014

June 16 Joint Letter

PCCO Joint Letter June 16 2014PCO Joint Letter June 16 2014

They’re Building A Pipeline Song – Help Protect the Wilderness

Thank you Carol…

Published on Sep 14, 2014

Help preserve the most beautiful place on earth; its wildlife, its people, its music, the culture that connects us all. Song by Carol Denney of Berkeley, CA, who has roots in the mountains. https://www.facebook.com/wvwilderness…

Charlotte Stormwater Pollution – Harming Our Lakes, Streams and Rivers

On Monday, September 22, Charlotte City Council has planned a Public Hearing that will, for the most part, determine the future water quality of our area lakes, streams and rivers.

Runoff from stormwater is a major contributor to water pollution. Watch this short video- “Storm Water Pollution: The Unknown Assailant” to learn about the issues involved (thanks to the Catawba Riverkeeper for posting this on their website).

Check back for more information on this issue this week.

See you on Sept 22 at the City Council Meeting!

2014 Mecklenburg County State of the Environment Report

At our August meeting we had a great presentation about the Sustain Charlotte 2014 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Sustainability Report Card – “What would your parents say if you brought home this report card?”

Our September meeting on Wednesday the 24th will feature Heidi Pruess, Environmental Policy Administrator for Mecklenburg County’s Land Use and Environmental Services Agency, as she provides an Update on the Mecklenburg County Livability Plan (Click link for meeting information).

If you haven’t had a chance to review the 2014 Mecklenburg County State of the Environment Report, I highly recommend that you do so before the meeting. You can also click the link – Listen – to hear a discussion of the report from a WFAE Charlotte Talks show.

See you on the 24th for our monthly meeting!

 

WFAE Charlotte Talks: “Mecklenburg County Environmental Report Card” (from March 25, 2014)

Every two years Mecklenburg County does an environmental assessment and delivers an environmental report card of sorts. The report card for the last two years has just been released and we’ll meet with two officials to see how our region fared in Air, Land, Water and Waste use and efficiency. In most aspects the county has fared well but the recession did have an impact in some areas. We’ll find out which ones, what aspects of our environment passed with flying colors and what has room for improvement. We check the county’s environmental grade.

Guests
Heidi Pruess
– Community Plan and Sustainability Officer for Mecklenburg County
Jeff Michael – Director, UNC Charlotte Urban Institute

2014 Mecklenburg County State of the Environment Report

The State of the Environment Report (SOER) has been used as an informative tool for understanding the current environmental state of our region while identifying strategies and recommendations to maintain and enhance our quality of life by ensuring clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and healthy land on which to live and recreate.

This 2014 SOER expands on the traditional identification of priority environmental indicators in Mecklenburg County by providing a trend analysis for each environmental indicator during recent history. Each SOER chapter button below provides a list of recommended actions for addressing these priority environmental indicators as well as informative and fun videos.

Visit Air Quality's Chapter Page Visit Land's Chapter Page
Visit Water's Chapter Page Visit Waste's Chapter Page

Environmental Indicators
Environmental Indicators can be found through the chapter buttons above or via the table below. This website will be updated as either the indicator trend changes or as new information becomes available.

Environmental Indicators Key

 Air indicator
Overall Air Quality
indicator
Ozone
indicator
Particulate Matter
indicator
NOx, SO2, CO, Lead
 Land indicator
Climate Change and Wildlife
indicator
Nature Preserves
indicator
Greenways
indicator
Facility Planning
 Waste indicator
Commercial Waste
indicator
Yard Waste
indicator
Residential Waste
indicator
Household Hazardous Waste 
 Water indicator
Groundwater
indicator
Lakes
indicator
Public Involvement 
indicator

If you are interested in exploring trends back to 1987, you are encouraged to read the 2008 SOER. If you are interested in learning more about how Mecklenburg County’s State of the Environment reflects on our region, you are encouraged to read the 2010 SOER or the 2012 SOER.

Mecklenburg County is fortunate to have County staff with both the technical expertise and practical knowledge to produce the information contained in this 2014 edition of the State of the Environment Report. Please join me in thanking them for their determination and skill in producing this exceptional report!

Additional information at http://charmeck.org/mecklenburg/county/LUESA/SOER/Pages/default.aspx.