Burgaw Creek Watershed
Burgaw Creek was listed as “Impaired” for aquatic life in 1998, from Osgood Branch to the Northeast Cape Fear; and for chlorophyll a from its source to Osgood Canal in 2008. Division of Water Quality (DWQ) ambient monitoring and the Lower Cape Fear River Program data have shown that Burgaw Creek has historically had chronic problems with high fecal coliform levels and nutrient enrichment. When tasked with a regional watershed restoration project, Burgaw Creek was selected and sampling was conducted at ten stations on fourteen occasions, from February 2008 to January 2009. Land use within the watershed consists of extensive forested areas, wetlands, agriculture, a few animal operations, and urban development within the Town of Burgaw. The Town has a 0.75 MGD wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) that discharges to Osgood Canal just above Burgaw Creek at N.C. Highway 117. Residents within the town limits are connected to water and sewer; those outside have septic systems.
Sample results indicated that nutrient levels were elevated at all stations except one, which was furthest downstream and adjacent to a golf course. Average nitrate/nitrite levels at these stations ranged from 0.3 to 8.8 mg/l. Similarly, fecal coliform levels were greater than a geometric mean of 200 col/100 ml at sixty percent of the stations, four of which were above the Burgaw WWTP and ranged from 325 to 434 col/100 ml. Once the watershed baseline data was established, it became apparent that restoration of the creek would be extremely difficult. Because of the existence of multiple sources of nutrients and fecal coliform within the watershed (i.e. turkey litter, wildlife, septic tanks, animal operations and the WWTP), a targeted restoration process seemed unlikely without more definitive source tracking.
The Burgaw WWTP is a significant source of nutrient input to the creek and may be a contributing cause to elevated fecal coliform levels as well. The Town of Burgaw continues to move forward on a connection to the Wallace WWTP, and has in fact received stimulus monies to do so. While it is expected that the removal of the WWTP discharge in Burgaw Creek will improve water quality in the creek, it is only one of several sources and its elimination would likely not fully restore Burgaw Creek.
Due to the complexities of the pollution sources in the Burgaw Creek watershed and the lack of funding for more definitive source tracking, successful restoration of the creek does not appear likely in the near future. Consequently, DWQ is considering changing the restoration project to a more manageable, smaller watershed - Beaverdam Branch in Duplin County (See Beaverdam Branch entry for more information).