N.C. environmental officials are working to determine the sources of construction sediment that has been found in at least four Union County streams.
A large portion of Union County is in the Yadkin River basin, and the county has 116 named streams, not including smaller tributaries. Union has experienced massive growth and building in the past 20 years.
“I'm not sure how this compares with other counties,” said Marcia Allocco, an environmental chemist from the Mooresville office of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. “Other counties haven't experienced the growth that Union has.”
Allocco's office responded earlier this month after she saw Observer photos of three severely polluted streams. One runs across Idlewild Road just west of Indian Trail-Fairview Road. The second crosses Stevens Mill Road at the edge of the Fairhaven neighborhood. The third crosses Poplin Road near Seefin Court at the edge of Monroe. All eventually flow into the Yadkin River, which supplies drinking water for Anson County and some Union County residents.
Allocco said construction sediment has been found in those streams. Her office also checked another Yadkin River basin stream in Union County and found construction sediment.
Allocco's office also received three more reports this week of stream pollution in southeastern Union County. They have not had time to investigate.
The state's penalties for sediment pollution go as high as $25,000 per day, Allocco said. For first-time offenders, the fine usually is closer to $10,000 per day.
Allocco said the stream crossing Stevens Mill Road appeared the most polluted. A construction site is upstream.
Allocco recently walked along the stream on Stevens Mill. She found that the water was opaque and brownish almost a quarter-mile to the north. She also found that the stream forked, with one branch going toward a farm.
“There could be a handful of things that people are doing,” she said.
That could include fertilizers from crops, other types of waste and sediment. There also could be naturally occurring sediment because of recent rain. Still, Allocco said, there is some construction sediment.
Zahid Khan, who works with the state department that approves plans by builders to control sediment and erosion, said someone from his office had been to a Union County construction site. He said they found some small leaks around a silt fence.
Allocco said Friday that her office has located a nearby spot where surface water from the site may be flowing into a tributary. She said discolored water could be traced there.