Neuse Subbasin 06
(Little River Watershed including Wendell and parts of
Wake, Wayne and Johnston Counties)
6-A. Subbasin Description
Neuse subbasin 06 includes the entire Little River catchment form its headwaters at
Moore’s Millpond in Franklin County to its confluence with the Neuse River near
Goldsboro. The lower part of the watershed in
Johnston and Wayne Counties is characterized by
larger farms with smaller buffer zones. Land use Land and Water Area (sq. mi.) throughout the subbasin is primarily a combination Subbasin 06 at a Glance Total area: 317 of agriculture and forestry, with scattered, but Land area: 317 growing, small towns. The river is home to a Water area: <1 number of rare, threatened and endangered species including the federally endangered dwarf wedge Population/Growth
mussel. A map of the subbasin showing water 1996 Est. Pop.: 51,133
quality monitoring stations is shown in Figure 6.1. Pop. Density: 161 pers/sq. mi.
Proj. 2017 Pop.: 79,255 % increase (1996-2017): 55% The Little River has two distinct reaches in this subbasin. The first reach flows quickly as it drops Land Cover (%) out of the piedmont (an average slope of 27 feet per Forest/Wetlands: 59.4% mile in the first 1.5 miles and 6 feet per mile in the Cultivated: 33% next 9.5 miles). The second reach moves more Developed: 3.2% slowly as it meanders through the Coastal Plain (an Water: 0.8%
average slope of 2.6 feet per mile for the
Use Support Ratings downstream 61 miles). *Streams
The Kenly Regional WWTP is the only major N S 5 %
(permitted flow 0.52 MGD) NPDES discharger in P S 1 9 % subbasin 06. The facility discharges to the Little
River. S T
7 6 %
* based on monitored data
6-B. Water Quality Overview Lakes (2 total)
Water quality of the Little River in 1995 was
generally Good-Fair based on macroinvertebrate
samples, but Good based on fish data. The
macroinvertebrate data suggested a slight decline in water quality between 1991 and 1995 in the middle and lower portions of the river.
Nonpoint runoff associated with rapid development appears to have the greatest potential
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to affect water quality in this area, but agricultural water withdrawals also may affect the aquatic community by reducing flows during drought periods. While not classified as swamp waters, Little River is a blackwater stream that has some swamp-like characteristics.
This subbasin was evaluated for the first time in 1995 when three sites were sampled. Two sites on the Little River were sampled above and below a proposed drinking water supply reservoir for eastern Wake County and were rated as Good and Good-Excellent, respectively.
Figure 6.1 Water Quality Monitoring Stations in the Upper Neuse River Basin
Buffalo Creek, a tributary to the Little River, was sampled above the proposed drinking water supply reservoir. It also was rated as Good.
The lake is classified C NSW but continued to experience algae blooms in 1995. The designated uses of Lake Wendell were determined to be threatened due to elevated percent oxygen saturation in surface waters, low dissolved oxygen in bottom waters, a documented nuisance bloom of blue-green algae, and hypereutrophic conditions. The other lake monitored in this subbasin was Holts Lake. Holts Lake is eutrophic, but was found to be supporting its designated uses.
6-C. Priority Issues and Recommendations
The water quality in Little River is fully supporting but threatened. Population is projected to increase by 55% from 1996 to 2017. Sedimentation and urban nonpoint runoff have the potential to significantly impact water quality unless mitigating measures are undertaken by local governments and developers to protect the river. Endangered species habitat is threatened by a proposed reservoir downstream from Mitchells Mill State Natural Area.
6-D. Current or Previously Impaired Waters Updates,
Status and Recommendations
Fisheries data for 1995 produced a Good rating for Buffalo Creek, although prior macroinvertebrate samples had assigned Poor or Fair ratings for this stream. No additional benthic sampling was done in 1995. Buffalo Creek is the main tributary to Lake Wendell.
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1992 Use Support Rating PS/NS
Reason(s) for Impairment Sediment, DO, Nutrients (especially P)
Wendell WWTP, urban nonpoint source pollution. 1993 Planned Strategy 1. Utilize existing programs.
2. NPDES permits will reflect advanced tertiary treatment (5 mg/l BOD
and 2 mg/l ammonia) for new and expanding dischargers.
3. The Town of Wendell is considering relocating its discharge and
may tie to the Raleigh WWTP.
4. Existing facilities will be handled on a case-by-case basis. 1993-1997 Actions
1997 Use Support Rating PS
1998 Planned Strategy 1. Follow-up benthic macroinvertebrate sampling needs to be performed
update the 1991 data.
2. A closer examination of the watershed is needed to better identify and
characterize potential sources of impact (which appear to be related
increased runoff) and to work with property owners, as needed, to
ensure that appropriate BMPs are being utilized.
3. DWQ will likely not have the resources to do this in the next basin
cycle and will need to rely on local government or agency assistance
such as the County government, USDA NRCS, SWCD and/or NC
Cooperative Extension Service.
Little River contains twelve rare animals: three fishes, one amphibian and eight mussels,
including several populations of the federally endangered dwarf wedgemussel. The only
protected site along the river is Mitchells Mill State Natural Area in Wake County. A
reservoir, which will impact some of these rare species, is being planned on the river
downstream from Mitchells Mill State Natural Area. Aquatic species would benefit from
protection efforts along the River.
Little River at NC 96
The Little River at the sampling location flows primarily over areas of exposed bedrock
with only small amounts of rubble and gravel substrate. Stream width at the site is
variable with alternating pools and constrictions, but averages approximately eight meters.
This site has received a Good-Fair bioclassification during each of the four summers it
has been sampled. The bioclassification has remained constant in spite of between-year
ranges in flow for the 30 days prior to the time of sampling. The site has also been
sampled a number of times during nonsummer months as part of seasonal and multiple
Little River at SR 2130
The physical characteristics at this site are quite different than those found at the NC 96
location. Sand composes the highest percentage (40%) of the substrate at this site, with
the rest of the substrate being a fairly even mix of boulder, rubble and gravel. The stream
is approximately 10 meters wide at this point.
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Although total taxa richness was the same for 1991 and 1995, EPT taxa richness and EPT abundance decreased and the BI value increased. These changes caused the bioclassification to decrease from Good in 1991 to Good-Fair in 1995. Although both sampling events occurred during years when river flow rates were highly variable during the late spring and early summer, the large decrease in EPT taxa richness and increase in the BI value suggests a change in water quality has occurred at this site.
Little River at NC 581
This site is located downstream of the SR 2130 site and has a higher percentage of sand as substrate than the SR 2130 site. The Little River in this area is a slow-flowing inner coastal plain and is approximately 15 meters wide.
The Little River at this site experienced a drop in bioclassification from Good in 1991 to Good-Fair in 1995. Total taxa richness, EPT taxa richness and EPT abundance all decreased between 1991 and 1995, coincident with an increase in the BI between the two sampling years. Similar to the SR 2130 site, the Little River at NC 581 had variable flows before the sampling events, but the degree of change in the macroinvertebrate metrics suggests a change in water quality for this site also. Three sites on the Little River were sampled within two weeks after 6,800 gallons of a solution of 50% sodium hydroxide (NaOH) spilled on the Goldsboro water treatment plant property. At least a portion of NaOH reached the Little River and caused a fish kill. However, based on the data collected during this survey, there did not appear to be an impact on the river's macroinvertebrate community (B-940805).
Constructed in 1927, Wendell Lake was originally used to provide power for a grist mill operation. Today, the lake is used for recreational fishing and access is limited to members of the Wendell Lake Fishing Club. Over the years, the lake has lost much of its storage capacity and presently has a surface area of 100 acres and a mean depth of 5 feet (1.5 meters). Land use in the 25-square mile watershed includes agricultural, residential, forested and wetland areas.
Buffalo Creek, the main tributary of the lake, is a slow-moving blackwater creek whose flow is restricted by numerous beaver dams upstream of Wendell Lake. Nutrient enrichment has also been a major problem with this lake. Much of the nutrient inputs appear to originate from upstream wastewater discharges into Buffalo Creek by the Town of Wendell and Vaiden Whitley High School. In 1994, wastewater from the Town of Wendell was directed to Raleigh for treatment and the Wendell WWTP was taken off-line.
DWQ most recently sampled Wendell Lake in July 1995. The lake was turbid at both lake sampling sites and the lake violated water quality standards for dissolved oxygen and pH. The elevated pH, low dissolved oxygen, and high chlorophyll
a levels at the
upstream sampling site confirmed the presence of algal blooms. The data indicated that
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the lake was hypereutrophic. The designated uses of Wendell Lake were rated Support
This lake was sampled previously by DWQ in 1988 and 1991. In 1988, the data showed
oxygen depletion and chlorophyll a values at both sampling sites to be approximately
three times greater than the state water quality standard. A large population of aquatic macrophytes, along with nuisance amounts of algae and duckweed were observed in Wendell Lake. Overall, the data in 1988 indicated that Lake Wendell was hypereutrophic and not supporting its designated uses. When Wendell Lake was sampled again in August 1991, chlorophyll a concentrations showed a major decrease from the 1988
concentrations and data indicated an improvement to eutrophic conditions.
In 1986, DWQ conducted a special study of nutrient loading that involved both the lake and Buffalo Creek upstream and downstream of the lake. Agricultural activities and developed areas were identified as potential sources of nutrient loading. Point sources were identified as Vaiden Whitley High School wastewater treatment operation (discharged into Buffalo Creek upstream of the Highway 64 bridge) and the Town of Wendell's wastewater treatment plant (discharged into Buffalo Creek at SR 2358 at the Wake County - Johnston County line). Because Wendell Lake is quite shallow and nutrient inputs were high, internal recycling of nutrients was another problem for the lake.
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