A key concern of those working to protect Elkin’s drinking water, and the water down stream, is a runoff issue behind the shopping center on North Bridge Street where Ingles and Belk reside, which served as the former home of Walmart. In an update from Watershed NOW at the Elkin Board of Commissioners, this problem was raised again.
Officials are uncertain who is responsible for enforcing the water protection, though, and have instructed Town Manager John Holcomb to look into the matter and report back to the board.
Woody Faulk, a member of Watershed NOW, noted that the runoff issue was discovered earlier in the year by members of the Elkin Valley Trails Association as they prepared to work on an extension of the E&A Rail Trail on Edward Hurt’s property, which is between the shopping center property and Big Elkin Creek on Brookfall Dairy Road.
“They noticed a huge gully across the field,” Faulk reported. “Joe Mickey investigated this and determined it was the result of a failed stormwater runoff detention system behind the old Walmart.”
Faulk provided overhead satellite images of the properties in question, with the gully visible, and pictures of the deep gully, which he guessed was six feet deep, and the failed retention system during his presentation. The area behind the shopping center, which is owned by the Malachite Group out of Mineola, New York, is supposed to have a retention basin and silt traps, according to the erosion control plans on the original drawings of the site when it was developed in 1994.
These erosion control measures have failed, he explained, the result is the stormwater and runoff from the shopping center parking lot, including pollutants, are flowing through the gully and into Grassy Creek, which flows into Big Elkin Creek, the tributary for the town’s water supply.
Price’s Lawn and Maintenance previously had been contracted to maintain the site, so Libby Price contacted the Malachite Group, Faulk reported. “The owner was contacted and Greenhill Environmental was asked to appraise what would need to be done on the site to repair it,” he said. “Libby Price contacted the owner who wanted Price’s Lawn and Maintenance to clean it up first before deciding what to do next.”
He explained that upon looking at the site, it appears the retention tower which is designed to keep the water behind the berm has failed allowing the sediment to come through the property. “There is nothing detaining the flow of water,” Faulk said, adding it appears there is a sinkhole even before getting to the retention tower.
“The owners are hoping to only use rock” to correct the issue, he reported. “It needs to be taken care of. We aren’t sure where the state department of environmental quality stands, but it is in motion.”
Mayor Sam Bishop asked if the town has any jurisdiction to provide enforcement of sediment control, but Planning Director George Crater said those issues are reported to the state, who then can fine them up to daily if necessary until it is enforced. But Faulk said his group reached out to the state, who told them it would be up to the town to enforce.
Town Attorney Raymond “Scooter” Parker said whichever agency requires the retention ponds to be built is the group responsible for making sure they are maintained. He wondered if that might be the county’s planning department.
Faulk said since the property owned by Hurt is agricultural, there could be grant money available to have it repaired, but not until the retention issues are addressed.
Bishop asked Holcomb to research who is responsible for maintaining and enforcing the retention efforts.
In other updates from Watershed NOW, Faulk reported a number of positive outcomes of meetings of the Friends of Big Elkin Creek with landowners and farmers along the watershed, including changing of farming practices to reduce sediment and runoff entering the waterways.
He also publicly thanked the Surry Wineries for donating a portion of the proceeds from the vineyards’ 5Ks toward Watershed NOW and Elkin Valley Trails Association.
Also, a formal partnership between Watershed NOW and Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital has been formed to recognize “fresh, clean water is essential for good health.” Faulk added, “Keeping pollutants from entering waterways prevents serious harm to both public health and to the environment.”
In his final update, Faulk said he and Crater are working together on wording to update the town’s ordinances in regard to the Watershed Overlay District, with the encouragement of the town’s planning board. Once amendments are made, they will be presented to the planning board for consideration, and then eventually brought to the commissioners for adoption.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.