By: Michael Rawlins
Approximately 5.5% (364,862) of the North Carolina population lives in the 16 counties that comprise the Tar-Pamlico River Basin. These counties are Beaufort, Dare, Edgecombe, Franklin, Granville, Halifax, Hyde, Martin, Nash, Pamlico, Person, Pitt, Vance, Warren, Washington, and Wilson.
In 1989, the Tar-Pamlico River Basin was designated as Nutrient Senstive waters. Almost one-third of the freshwater streams in the basin are impaired due to sediment, low pH, and fecal coliform. Only 21% of the streams in this basin fully support their designated uses. 43% of the streams are threatened, 20% are partially supporting, and 5% do not support their uses. Approximately 92% of the pollution is caused by polluted runoff from agriculture, hydrologic/habitat modification (e.g., stream channelization, drainage, ditching, wetlands drainage), urban development, and forestry. The remaining 8% of the pollution comes from point sources.
Several lakes are impaired because of excess nutrients and eutrophic conditions exist in Lake Devnin, Lake Royale, and Hart Pond.
Water quality problems in the estuary include algae blooms, fish kills, toxic dinoflagellates, diseased crabs and fish, and closed shellfish waters. Many of the problems in the estuary are caused by excessive nutrients from polluted runoff. It is estimated that 85% of the pollution comes from this polluted runoff and 15% comes from point discharges. The excess phosphorus and nitrogen come from agricultural and urban runoff, septic systesm, marinas, wastewater treatment plant discharges, and atmospheric deposition. There is also a problem with high fecal coliform bacteria counts.
Although dischargers have met their nutrient reduction goals, it is apparent that nitrogen from both nonpoint and point dischargers must be decreased. A 30% goal reduction in nitrogen loading into the river has been recommended.
Waters in this river basin provide habitat for nine state or federally threatened or endangered freshwater mussel species.