How we got started
Clean Jordan Lake was co-founded in July 2009 by Dr. Thomas Colson (now employed by the National Park Service) and Dr. Francis DiGiano, Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the University of North Carolina/Chapel Hill. Clean Jordan Lake is recognized as a nonprofit organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Federal tax code.
What we do
We work in partnership with the Haw River Assembly to expand volunteer programs to remove shoreline trash, to inform local and state government agencies about the problem, and to recommend trash prevention strategies that will keep the shoreline clean in the future. Click on this Powerpoint presentation for an overview of our work.
Jordan Lake – A valuable natural resource
Jordan Lake is a multi-use reservoir filled in 1982. Its primary purpose is flood protection for downstream citizens in the Cape Fear River basin. The lake covers 14,000 acres (about 22 sq. miles) and has 180 miles of shoreline.
The 33,000 acres of public land that surround the lake for recreation and wildlife management is very special: not a single dwelling can be seen from the lake.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in partnership with the State of North Carolina manages the natural resources. USACE operates the B. Everett Jordan Dam to control the water level in the lake. The Visitor Assistance Center and surrounding 800 acres controlled by the USACE provide interpretive nature programs, hiking trails and boat ramps.
The NC Division of Parks and Recreation operates the majority of the recreation areas. Of the 33,000 acres of public land, their facilities occupy 4,600 acres. Wildlife subimpoundments for waterfowl management are leased to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission that manages the fields to provide wildlife habitat and wildlife-oriented recreation. This accounts for most of the public land. Additional recreational facilities are provided by the, N.C. Division of Forest Resources.
The Jordan Lake State Recreation Area receives about 1 million visitors annually. Many more anglers, boaters, bathers, kayakers, hunters, hikers and birders access the lake and surrounding public land outside the park boundaries.
About 300,000 citizens also depend on Jordan Lake for clean, safe drinking water. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 143,000 of them live in Cary, 15,000 in Morrisville, 37,000 in Apex, 13,000 in Chatham County (north section) and 38,000, who may not live in these locations, work in Research Triangle Park.
Multipurpose use of Jordan Lake – protecting hundreds of thousands downstream from floods, offering recreational opportunities for 1 million and providing a safe drinking water for 300,000- indeed makes this lake a very valuable North Carolina resource.
Why Remove Trash
Trash threatens to impair the lake’s beneficial uses, mar its natural beauty and destroy the natural habitat of wildlife living along the shoreline. Floating and submerged trash is a danger to boaters. There is risk of injury to birds and animals. Chemical residuals in aerosol spray cans could seep into the lake. Anyone seeing this blight would wonder how Jordan Lake could be a public water supply. If these stains upon the land are not removed, the local economy can be hurt if lake users go elsewhere.
Trash and Urbanization
The Haw River watershed at the southern end of the lake comprises a land area of about 1,400 square miles and the New Hope River at the northern end accounts for an additional 344 square miles. While much smaller in area, the New Hope River watershed is highly urbanized. About 720,000 people live in these two watersheds. Rapid urbanization throughout the watersheds over the last 30 years is evident in Google Earth Engine Time Lapse by entering Jordan Lake, Chatham County, NC in search window.
With increasing urbanization, more visitors will be coming to the lake. Unfortunately, greater recreational use of the shoreline, especially at fishing access points and on vast areas of public land that surround the lake, will mean lots more trash. Bottles, cans, diapers, propane fuel canisters, plastic bait containers, and fishing tackle are already strewn everywhere. Littering is a habitual problem with no easy solution.
Trash and Stormwater
Surprisingly, recreational use is NOT the major source of trash although it is a terrible eyesore. Instead, anything on the land in the vast watershed of the lake can be flushed away by heavy rainfalls either directly or through storm drains into streams that eventually feed the lake. Trash found on the shoreline at the entrance to the lake from the Haw River, far above recreational use areas, is proof that it originates from the watershed.
In addition to the usual expectation of bottles, cans and plastic packaging, our volunteers routinely find children’s toys, dolls, basketballs, softballs, baseballs, soccer balls, fuel and hydraulic fluid containers, pesticide spray applicators, cigarette lighters and much more. Most recently, a water meter cover from the City of Greensboro was recovered. Even refrigerators, orange road construction barrels, hot water heaters and tires (many still on rims) are found along the high water mark of many remote coves, especially on the Haw River Arm of Jordan Lake. This CJL video gives an idea of how it happens.
Trash ends up hundreds of feet into the woods above the shoreline. This happens because the lake level rises after rainfalls. Below is a sample of historical record of lake level rise and associated rainfall in one month. A rainfall of less than 2 inches early in the month caused the level to increase by 3 feet.
Vivid evidence of the stormwater-trash connection was collected by Clean Jordan Lake. We keep records of the miles of shoreline and the bags collected in each cleanup event.
From USGS gauging station records, we counted the number of times the lake level increased by 2 ft or more in between cleanings of each of three sites along the Haw River Arm over the last 6 years.
The graph below shows that the greater the number of lake level rises that result from rainfalls occurring between cleanings, the more trash that accumulates. In fact, the data indicate the amount is in direct proportion to the number of lake level rises and thus to the amount of rain that fell!
Who Removes Trash?
Of the 180 miles of shoreline, less than 40 are within the jurisdiction of the Jordan Lake State Recreation Area where occasional cleanups are done by their staff. No state or local agency has the financial resources to address the trash problem on the remaining 130 miles bordering public land. Volunteerism must fill this void.
Despite these efforts, the inaccessibility of much of the shoreline of the Haw River Arm of Jordan Lake has greatly limited trash removal since the lake was formed 35 years ago. But thanks to the hard work of thousands of volunteers for Clean Jordan Lake, the trash legacy has disappeared on 15 miles of the most heavily impacted shoreline. But keeping up with new trash still keeps volunteers very busy.
Clean Jordan Lake sponsors semi-annual cleanups open to the general public. These are held in October and March. In addition, many groups come to the lake for community service days. They include youth organizations (YMCA Guides, Boy Scouts of America, YMCA Summer Camp); high schools (Green Hope, Carrboro and Northwood); corporations (GSK, Duke Energy, Syngenta, Biogen Idec, BB&T, NC Blue Cross-Blue Shield); universities (UNC Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity, UNC Pre-Pharmacy Club, UNC ROTC Cadets, NCSU Swim Club, Elon Sierra Club); civic groups (NC Geocachers, Sierra Club affiliates, Rotary Clubs). And we also have Adopt-A-Shoreline and Adopt-A-Feed Stream Programs to keep designated areas clean throughout the year.
Charts showing our accomplishments year by year are at the Events page. Thousands of volunteers have participated in several hundred cleanup events so far. In addition to trash, over 4,300 tires, many still on rims, have been removed.
Our early success is vividly portrayed in NBC17 News coverage of the October 2010 cleanup event in conjunction with NC Big Sweep that attracted about 200 volunteers. Picking up trash is hard work but can also be a lot of fun as this video shows!
We are moving toward public education on trash prevention. A grant from the BoatU.S. Foundation to Clean Jordan Lake produced signage and brochures to attract more from the boating community to our cause. Learn more…. We are looking to expand outlets for our educational videos and hope to interest local TV outlets in a PSA spot.
Donated Services and Supplies
Clean Jordan Lake achieves its mission WITHOUT PAID STAFF! We are indebted to local and state agencies, organizations and private business for their support. We have a cooperative agreement with USACE that provides for boats to ferry volunteers and trash as well other logistical support. The Chatham County Solid Waste & Recycling Division has provided roll-off dumpsters, waives the landfill tipping fee, donates trash grabbers, installs our Adopt-A-Shoreline signs, and facilitates our press releases. The Bridgestone Americas Spent Tire Program has enabled free pickup and recycling of tires.
The NC Wildlife Resources Commission has cleared paths for volunteers to reach trash sites. The NC Dept. of Transportation, Highway Stormwater Program has donated thousands of bags and also gloves and trash grabbers. The Piedmont Section of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary has given on-water logistical support. Cross Winds Boating Center and Jordan Lake Water Sports have provided pontoon boats and operators to ferry volunteers and trash.
As of December 2017, the value of volunteer hours and goods and services that have been donated exceeds $770,000.
Clean Jordan Lake
P.O. Box 1447
Pittsboro, NC 27312
Meet the Board of Directors
Van Murray, President
Van is CEO of NeoCloud. He has extensive experience in the information technology industry having served as President of Accent Plus, Inc., as Information Technology Manager of Cherokee in Raleigh and as Implementation Engineer for Mi-Co in Research Triangle Park, NC. He has also worked with the NC Department of Public Instruction Implementation Services Division in Raleigh, NC and Glaxo Wellcome International Standards and Systems in Research Triangle Park, NC. Van earned a BS in Electrical Engineering from North Carolina State University and has achieved multiple technical certifications from Cisco and Google. He is an outdoors enthusiast, currently serving on the board for the NC BASS Federation Nation and has competed in many tournaments of Jordan Lake. In May 2017, Van received a Top 40 Under 40 Leadership Award from the Triangle Business Journal.
Christina DeFrancesco, Secretary
Christina grew up in Apex and considers Jordan Lake a piece of her home. She is an Environmental Engineer with O’Brien and Gere Engineers and lifelong environmental advocate. She has BS degrees from UNCW and NCSU in Environmental Sciences and Environmental Engineering. Christina honed her interest in water resources and preservation through an internship with the Corps of Engineers and leading kayaking trips for the University Recreation Department. Her work guides companies in environmental stewardship. She spends weekends backpacking, kayaking, and rock climbing all over North Carolina. Christina has experienced firsthand the tranquility of being on the water in the early morning, and intimately understands the necessity of keeping the lake a beautiful and usable resource.
Ann M. DiGiano, Treasurer
Ann is a resident of Chatham County. She is a former CPA and CFP and was a partner in a Durham accounting firm. She has served on the board of directors of Chapel Hill Home Health Agency, Habitat for Humanity of Orange County, and Fearrington Cares. Ann shares her husband Fran’s interest in kayaking and in preserving our water resources.
Francis A. DiGiano, Past President
Fran is a resident of Chatham County. He is co-founder of Clean Jordan Lake. Fran spent 26 years on the faculty of the Dept. of Environmental Sciences & Engineering in the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC/Chapel Hill before retiring in 2007. Fran’s professional expertise is water quality and this carries over to his lifetime commitment preserving our water resources. He is also an avid kayaker who enjoys paddling on Jordan Lake. In 2013, the Raleigh News & Observer honored him as Tar Heel of the Week for the achievements of Clean Jordan Lake.
Norris G. Cotton
Norris is a Financial Advisor in Durham, NC. He is a Certified Financial Planner®, a Certified Investment Management Analyst® and First Vice President with a national firm. He grew up fishing and water skiing on the Mississippi River and adjacent Delta lakes. Norris served 20 years in the US Marine Corps and retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. His water adventures include white water kayaking most of the eastern US rivers and now sailing his Shannon 43 Solstice out of Oriental, NC. Norris currently serves on the Triangle Land Conservancy Board. He and his partner, Tracy Mancini enjoy sailing, biking, kayaking, and continental and international travel.
Richard is a corporate finance executive currently working with a robotics and AI tech firm, Verity Studios, in Switzerland. He also has extensive experience in the pharmaceutical and aerospace industries in VP level roles. Richard was trained as an aerospace engineer with BASc and MASc degrees and also has an MBA with specialization in Japan, where he was for several years with Nortel and JAXA. He was raised on a farm and has spent most of his free time outdoors, often now on a stand up paddleboard on Jordan Lake, enjoying this gorgeous resource. Richard believes that we all play a part day-to day in solving the trash problem by picking it up in the environment and by limiting purchase of plastics through smart choices at the grocery store. He is pleased to be a part of this group focused on ensuring Jordan Lake remains a beautiful and clean treasure for all to enjoy.