Ellerbe Creek Projects

Water Pollution Investigations

Stormwater Services staff investigates water pollution reported by other city employees and Durham residents. In the 2014 reporting year, staff found pollution sources in 98 investigations. Pollution included:
  • Dirt from erosion
  • Oil or other vehicle fluids
  • Sewage overflows
  • Soapy/dirty water from commercial car washes
  • Yard waste
Stormwater Services encourages neighbors to discuss and discourage putting trash, wash water, grease, or other pollution into storm drains. Anything that goes into storm drains does not get treated and, in this watershed, eventually washes into Ellerbe Creek. Residents can also call the Stormwater Hotline (919-560-SWIM) to report water pollution.

Outfall Screening

During winter months, stormwater services works on mapping the places where stormwater pipes empty into the creek. These locations are called outfalls. Since this is done during dry weather, whenever water is coming out of a pipe it is tested for pollution. During the 2011-2012 winter period, staff focused outfall screening in the Ellerbe Creek watershed. Staff inspected 384 outfalls and found 26 pollution sources that were eliminated.

Rain Catchers Project

Starting in March of 2012, the city launched its Rain Catchers Project in the South Ellerbe Creek watershed. This project provided free rain gardens, cisterns, trees, native plantings, and downspout disconnections. Baseline monitoring of the water quality benefits of these green infrastructure installations has begun.

Stormwater Control Measures

The city completed a utility and streetscaping project at the intersection of Angier Avenue and Driver Street in Northeast Central Durham that included stormwater treatment retrofits using 12 Filterra units.

The city has installed 4 street-side filter units on City Hall Plaza and 7 on Harvard Street. These will help filter nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus out of stormwater. Filters like these are part of the city’s efforts to protect Falls Lake.

Floating Wetlands Study

Floating islands are made out of recycled plastic bottles and then planted with wetland plants. The city is working with North Carolina State University to test how well this new technology removes extra nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus, from stormwater. There were 16 islands placed in stormwater ponds at the Museum of Life and Science and the Hillandale Golf Course. Nutrient levels in the water are being measured as the water enters and leaves the ponds.

Stream Restoration Projects

Stream restoration projects return stream banks to a more natural shape. The new lower, curvy banks will help connect the stream to overbank areas called the floodplain. The new banks are planted with a buffer of native shrubs and trees. These plants will help treat pollution and prevent erosion. There have been several stream restoration projects completed in the Ellerbe Creek watershed:
  • Durham Central Park
  • Goose Creek near Eastway Elementary School
  • Hillandale Golf Course
  • Northgate Park
  • South Ellerbe Creek near I-85
  • Upper Goose Creek near Long Meadow Park
For the latest update on several stream restoration projects in the city, check out the Stream Restoration Project Fact Sheet (PDF).

Groups responsible for these projects have included:
  • City of Durham
  • North Carolina Land and Water Fund (formerly known as the Clean Water Management Trust Fund)
  • Durham County Soil and Water Conservation District
  • Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
  • North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality 319 Grant Program
  • North Carolina Department of Transportation
  • North Carolina Division of Water Resources
  • North Carolina Division of Mitigation Services
  • North Carolina State University

Watershed Restoration Plan

Ellerbe Creek is part of the Neuse River basin. In 2005, the Upper Neuse River Basin Association (in partnership with the city and many other groups) created a local watershed plan (PDF) for Ellerbe Creek. This plan includes information on pollution sources in the Ellerbe Creek watershed and ways to improve its health, but it did not evaluate specific projects or measures.