Northeast Creek

Land that drains into Northeast Creek is known as its watershed. The Northeast Creek watershed includes a large portion of Research Triangle Park and neighborhoods such as Parkwood, Oakmont Circle, and Robinwood. The lower part of the watershed contains large natural areas like the game lands associated with Jordan Lake.

Water from Northeast Creek flows into Jordan Lake. From there it flows into the Haw River and then to the Cape Fear River. This river is the only one in North Carolina that empties directly into the Atlantic Ocean.

Stream Water Quality
Stormwater Services staff tracks water quality at four sites in Northeast Creek. The health and cleanliness of the watershed is reported in Durham’s annual State of Our Streams Report. In years when staff is able to take a wide variety of tests, the watershed is also given a grade. Northeast Creek was last given a grade of 77 in 2014. This compares to a "C" letter grade. This low grade was given because of high fecal coliform (a bacteria associated with raw sewage) levels, high turbidity, and poor aquatic life.
Water from Northeast Creek flows into Jordan Lake. Jordan Lake has recently had problems with algae caused by extra nutrients (such as nitrogen and phosphorus). The state has created guidelines, also called a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) (PDF), to help reduce the nutrients in the lake. Because of this, the city also carefully tracks nutrients in Northeast Creek.

The state decided that these water quality concerns keep Northeast Creek from its intended uses by people and wildlife. The state added the creek to a list of impaired water bodies, also known as the 303(d) list. This means the city will need to take steps to find and reduce sources of pollution in the creek. The state also created guidelines, or a TMDL (PDF), to help reduce the fecal coliform in the creek.

Stormwater Projects in Northeast Creek
Water Quality 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 19 investigations. They included:
  • Grease/cooking oil
  • Sediment
  • Petroleum
  • Sanitary sewage
  • Yard waste
A major spill of 50 gallons of hydraulic fluid occurred in May in the Northeast Creek watershed. The spill reached a stormwater catch basin, but no evidence was found that it reached the creek. The hydraulic fluid was removed from the road and the catch basin, and Durham County Emergency Management and NCDENR were notified within 24 hours of the spill.

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 Northeast Creek. Residents can also call the Stormwater Hotline (919-560-SWIM) to report water pollution.

Dog Waste Stations
The city was awarded a grant to install 20 dog waste stations in Durham parks. There are 2 in the Northeast Creek Watershed in the C.M. Herndon and Bethesda parks.

Residential Rain Garden Project
Stormwater Services has received a grant to install 40 residential rain gardens, 16 were installed in the Northeast Creek watershed in the summer and fall of 2011. These rain gardens capture runoff and help naturally treat pollution.

Northeast Creek Metals Study
This study looked at how much and where metals are in Northeast Creek. Staff found unsafe levels of copper, cadmium, and nickel in the creek. Zinc levels were safe.

Watershed Improvement Plan
Stormwater Services completed the watershed improvement plan in 2012. This involved assessing over 200 stormwater control measures and over 60 stream miles to identify new and potential improvements for stormwater retrofits. Learn more about this improvement plan.

Water Quality Recovery Program
The Water Quality Recovery Program (WQRP) for Northeast Creek carries out the state fecal coliform Total Maximum Daily Load (PDF). The city prepared this plan in 2009 and submitted it to the N.C. Division of Water Quality. The city will submit updates with the annual NPDES permit report starting in 2010. Water from Northeast Creek flows into Jordan Lake. Because Jordan Lake has a TMDL for nutrients (PDF) (like nitrogen and phosphorus), the WQRP for Northeast Creek also tracks nutrients.

Get Involved
There are many ways for you to help protect the health of Northeast Creek. You can adopt a portion of the creek or volunteer to label storm drains. There are also 2 major stream clean-ups each year. Big Sweep is the 1st weekend in October and Creek Week is the last weekend in March. Email the public education coordinator for details.

Dedicated Groups
You can also join one of the many groups dedicated to protecting the health of our rivers and streams. Northeast Creek Streamwatch and the Haw River Assembly is active in this watershed.