Lick Creek: ‘Today was another very visually compelling day’

Environmental, Neuse River Watershed, Sound Rivers, Water Quality

Posted on October 19th, 2023

Martin Branch's sediment-laden water meets the clearer water of Lick Creek.

On Thursday, the confluence of Martin Branch and Lick Creek showed a clear example of sediment pollution.

The sight of the opaque, orange-red water of Martin Branch meeting the clearer water of Lick Creek was “very visually compelling,” according to Neuse Riverkeeper Samantha Krop.

The location is one of several Sam has been sampling for a year, tracking sediment pollution in the Lick Creek watershed. Lick Creek is a tributary of Falls Lake, a drinking water source for millions of Raleigh residents. The extreme turbidity — erosion of soil particles suspended in the water — has been attributed to the clear-cutting of hundreds of acres of surrounding land to make way for new housing developments. Minimal effort to control the erosion and sedimentation of Martin Branch from the Sweetbrier development led to the lawsuit filed against one Durham developer by Sound Rivers and the Southern Environmental Law Center in September.

“The sediment pollution issue that we are suing over is ongoing. Today, sediment levels in Martin Branch were an order of magnitude over (500+NTU) state standards for turbidity,” Sam said.

Rampant development in the area is also ongoing: this month, a 288-plus acre development previously turned down by the Durham City Council, is up for approval again, this time known as Perry Farms. A public hearing about the rezoning needed to allow development is scheduled for the council’s meeting on Oct. 30.

“This is the piece of land that is also on the Natural Heritage registry as high-value conservation because of its unique hardwood ecology,” Sam said. “It is also directly adjacent to the main stem of Lick Creek.”

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