There are stories and there are stories that get done on deadline. This was one of the latter.

The lede was confusing and uninformative. Instead of trying to summarize the article’s content in detail, the lede would have been more effective if it gave some background on the Orange Water and Sewer Authority and why the utility is contentious and important.

OWASA is under increased scrutiny because of its plans to tap Jordan Lake for future water use.

From the OWASA website:

“OWASA also has an allocation of 5 percent of Jordan Lake’s water supply storage capacity, which can yield about 5-6 million gallons per day (MGD). Jordan Lake will become increasingly important to OWASA in the event of severe drought or other emergency – especially during the next 25 years until the expanded Quarry Reservoir is online.”

The utility is paying $12,000 a year to the state for the right to access its allocation in the future. OWASA says that it may lose its future right to access if it does not start the process to formally demonstrate need.

Many residents believe that the utility and the people it serves should focus on conservation instead of expanding the water supply, said Chapel Hill Town Council Member Donna Bell.

“They are concerned that the business needs of OWASA might outweigh the environmental needs of the region,” Bell said during an interview during Monday’s Town Council meeting.

Because of the environmental impact of the utility and the recent debate over Jordan Lake, residents are especially concerned about OWASA’s actions. This is why a possible Clean Water Act violation is a big deal.

The violation had to do with the amount of manganese released, but the effects of manganese were not outlined.

This was an instance of my inability to find an appropriate answer. In humans, excess levels of manganese can harm brain development in children, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But manganese was not released into the drinking water supply, but into a creek. The effects that it has on nature are less well known.

The most striking information that I found was that manganese cannot break down in the environment. It can only change its form or become attached to or separated from particles, according to the same Centers for Disease Control website.

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