Oops, NC DEQ: Thirteen SolarBees Got Loose During the Jordan Lake Pilot Program | News

Oops, NC DEQ: Thirteen SolarBees Got Loose During the Jordan Lake Pilot Program

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Jordan Lake - JEREMY LANGE
  • Jeremy Lange
  • Jordan Lake
Last week, Secretary Donald van der Vaart of North Carolina's Department of Environmental Quality admitted what we all pretty much already knew: SolarBees have been a spectacular failure in cleaning up Jordan Lake.

But they've been a failure in more ways than one and on more than one occasion, if you can believe it, which, of course you can.

In a public records request, the North Carolina Sierra Club found that during the state legislature's ill-fated, 21-month experiment with SolarBees, thirteen of the water mixing devices went rogue in four different instances, floating freely around the lake and causing a safety hazard to boaters. Such occurrences tended to follow periods of heavy rain and high winds during storms, as you can see in the records below. 

DEQ's original report on the efficacy of SolarBees in cleaning up large water bodies noted that SolarBees did have the potential to be hazardous to boaters. But, though they were apparently coming unmoored left and right, DEQ saw fit to omit this information in the revised report. 

The state Environmental Management Commission's water quality committee meets tomorrow and EMC members along with DEQ staff could make a recommendation to the legislature about how to address Jordan Lake pollution. 

Also at tomorrow's meeting, the EMC will address a report on riparian buffers that was pulled from the EMC agenda the same day as the Jordan Lake report back in March (though DEQ did submit that report to lawmakers before the April 1 deadline.)

The original buffers report cited scientific literature that shows that riparian buffers protect water quality, and concluded that buffers are valuable and effective. As with the criticism of SolarBees, that language was removed in a revised report.

The Sierra Club compares the two buffer reports below, and asks in a letter that the EMC reinsert the sections of the original report that show that riparian buffers "make ecological and financial sense."

"The EMC is responsible for ensuring that strategies to protect water quality are based on science, not politics," the letter, signed by Upper Neuse Riverkeeper Matthew Starr and Sierra Club director of government affairs Cassie Gavin, states.




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