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.
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 this satellite time lapse view. Move the red box on upper right around and change the zoom to explore the area around the lake.
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 50 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 have come to the lake for community service days. They include Whole Foods, Order of the Arrow (Boy Scouts of America), Green Hope High School, Change the Triangle, GlaxoSmithKline, UNC Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity, NC Geocachers, Duke Energy, Sierra Club at Elon University, Syngenta and Biogen Idec. And we also now have Adopt-A-Shoreline and Adopt-A-Feed Stream Programs to keep designated areas clean throughout the year.
Volunteers have removed thousands of bags of trash as well as large objects such as 55-gal drums, fuel tanks, herbicide sprayers and hot water heaters. Embedded with this trash is the more usual assortment of “litter” (bottles, cans, plastic bags) as well as beach balls, soccer balls, baby dolls and basketballs. In addition, over 3,700 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 2015, the value of volunteer hours and goods and services that have been donated exceeds $550,000.
Clean Jordan Lake
P.O. Box 1447
Pittsboro, NC 27312
Meet the Board of Directors
Francis A. DiGiano, President
Fran is a resident of Chatham County. He 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. His prior faculty appointment was at the University of Massachusetts in the Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering where he spent 12 years. 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.
Van Murray, Vice–President
Van is Director of Cloud Services of NeoNova. 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. Van is an outdoors enthusiast, currently serving on the board for the NC BASS Federation Nation and has competed in many tournaments of Jordan Lake. He also holds a Private Pilot Certificate, currently logging 200 hours PIC with a high performance endorsement.
Ann M. DiGiano, Secretary-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.
Norris G. Cotton
Norris is a Financial Advisor with CottonMoehrke Group, Morgan Stanley in Durham, NC. He grew up fishing and water skiing on the Mississippi River and adjacent Delta lakes. After college, he joined the US Marine Corps, serving over 20 years during which he spent many months at sea around the world. His later water adventures include white water kayaking most of the eastern US rivers and now sailing a Shannon 43, Solstice, out of Oriental, NC. Norris is a member of the Raleigh Power and Sail Squadron. He has served on the board of directors for Genesis Home, The Durham/Orange Estate Planning Council, and the Forest Hills Neighborhood Association. He now volunteers on the Finance and Investment Committee of the Triangle Land Conservancy.
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.
Conn grew up in Michigan and moved to Apex in 1995. He is a Clinical Development Scientist at Parexil. Conn is an active skier, both water and snow, and a cyclist, both road and mountain. He has enjoyed water sports his entire life and feels privileged to live close to Jordan Lake to be able to use and enjoy the lake all year round. He has recruited friends, family and coworkers to participate in shoreline cleanup activities for the past few years and plans to continue this important endeavor.
Jacob is the Operations Director for Carolina Farm Stewardship Association in Pittsboro. Prior to his work with CFSA, he was a project manager with the Piedmont Conservation Council, managing natural resource-based projects in 10 counties across the upper-central Piedmont. Jacob grew up in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, graduated from Guilford College in 2005 and has worked in the nonprofit sector since 2006 in both Florida and North Carolina implementing a variety of projects relating to agricultural water management, beginning farmer training, stormwater management, and habitat restoration. He enjoys hiking, paddle boarding, kayaking, and playing guitar. His interest in Clean Jordan Lake was sparked due to his deep love for the natural environment and his desire to preserve critical water resources and recreational opportunities that can bring future generations closer to nature.