Series of preventative steps taken after heavy rains

By Dave Russell

State officials keeping an eye on a construction site on Western Carolina University’s Millennial Campus say the developer is in compliance with erosion prevention protocols.

Land disturbance at a public-private partnership project between Western Carolina University and Wilmington-based Zimmer Development Co. resulted in a violation notice from the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality.

Zimmer received violation notices in mid-June for water-quality stream standards under the N.C. Sedimentation Pollution Control Act. The company is building a 500-bed apartment complex for WCU. The property is part of the university’s Millennial Campus off Killian Road.

Staff from the DEQ’s Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources inspected the site on July 30 and found “appropriately sized measures were in place and functioning.”

A report filed by the division’s Rick Brooks said a construction entrance/exit has been installed to prevent past issues of sheet flow running down the road.

Three stormwater basins were improved and enlarged, a majority of the slopes were covered with erosion prevention matting, baffles (such as silt fencing) were installed, a diversion ditch was dug and large areas of the site were hydroseeded, the report said.

“Based on the significant improvements observed and the stream clean up being completed, the NOV issued on July 17 is now released,” the report stated. “The site will periodically be inspected moving forward for compliance.”

A stream cleanup confirmation was received on July 31, and the notice of violation was lifted.

Another state agency, the DEQ’s Division of Water Resources, last visited the site on Aug. 5 and found Zimmer’s remediation and best management practices for erosion control to be satisfactory, said division spokesperson Sarah Young.

Still, she said, “DWR will not be closing out the Notice of Violation due to enforcement protocol procedures.”

No fine was levied for the violations, and no complaints have been reported since early August, Young said.

The saga began when heavy rains led officials from the DEQ to inspect the site June 11. They  recorded “land-disturbing activity of about 19.1 acres” and measured up to a foot of sediment deposited into an unnamed tributary leading into Long Branch. Long Branch flows into Cullowhee Creek, and from there, the Tuckaseigee River with its state-declared Mountain Heritage Trout Waters.

The state sent notices to the firm and to WCU on June 17 and 19. Zimmer Development was required to implement a series of corrective measures, such as coordination with the N.C. Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources to stabilize the site, submitting to the state documentation describing and quantifying environmental impacts, and removal of sediment from nearby streams as part of a restoration plan.

Zimmer Development coordinated with Asheville-based ClearWater Environmental Consultants to establish that plan, which DEQ’s Division of Water Resources approved on July 3.

However, a DWR July 15 inspection found the site to be unstable, Young said.

“Additional sediment has migrated off the site and was documented in surface waters,” she said. “DWR communicated this to the project superintendent, engineer and environmental consultant, and required all sediment to be removed per the approved plan and to reevaluate new sediment loss.”

Construction was halted until the issues could be resolved.

Zimmer has now successfully cleaned up the small stream, Young said.

“The stream remediation was acceptable and documented,” she said. “The estimated total sediment removed from the two tributaries was 2,336 buckets. If each 5-gallon bucket removed was 80 percent full, this would equal approximately 46 cubic yards removed.”

“We are glad to see that our development partners at Zimmer have not only met the mitigation expectations set by the state but have exceeded those expectations,” WCU spokesperson Bill Studenc said. “The university has confidence in the development company’s ability to remain in compliance as the project moves forward and stays on schedule.”