Dr. Kays’ testimony set out the damage from stormwater overflow that would result from the hotel, as summarized below. We strongly encourage everyone to watch the full video recording of his two-hour testimony, available here: www.montreat-stewards.org/permit-hearing.*
Testimony from the expert
Dr. Kays’ analysis showed that the stormwater system is significantly undersized. The technical explanation of this is provided further below. His testimony set out the risks:
Q: Given that it's undersized...what's the probability that the MRA's proposed StormTech System will work and function as intended, in your opinion?
A: I believe it will fail and [the stormwater] will surface, and it will contaminate Flat Creek, simple as that.
Q. And given that the detention system will not detain and treat the increased stormwater runoff in that manner, that will lead to the discharge of polluted stormwater to Flat Creek, is that correct?
Q. And given that this system as proposed in your opinion would result in the pollution of Flat Creek, do you have an opinion as to whether or not the use the MRA's proposed hotel would be detrimental to or endanger the public health, safety or general welfare if located where proposed and developed according to the plan as submitted and approved?
A. That opinion is that it would contaminate surface waters and groundwaters in and around the site.
Dr. Kays further explained that those who use Flat Creek -- in Robert Lake Park and further downstream -- would be exposed to this untreated water. This will carry many contaminants, including likely a “very high fecal coliform count,” which would represent the biggest threat to children and others using Flat Creek. This can cause diarrhea and many severe digestive diseases. Under the federal Clean Water Act, the Town of Montreat would be responsible for the clean-up of the polluted waters that flow into Flat Creek, he explained. The cost for this cleanup would fall to Montreat taxpayers.
The challenges of this particular site
Most of the site has a shallow seasonal highwater table and shallow rock. A stormwater system must have at least two feet of separation between the bottom of the system and the top of the seasonal highwater table. For these reasons, there is not sufficient room at this site to place a system at the required depth.
This means that with the MRA’s proposed system, untreated stormwater would slowly move laterally into the creek. Additionally, during storm events the system will fill up and water will surface and run down the front lawn of the project and across the street and into the stream. These are two ways that untreated stormwater will enter the stream, Dr. Kays explained. In short, “The system is not deep enough and can’t be, due to the seasonal highwater table and the water table of Flat Creek.”
In addition to a challenge with the depth of the system, Dr. Kays’ analysis shows that the proposed stormwater system is undersized by somewhere between 159% and 235%. The system would have to be shallower, and the system size would thus go up dramatically: this would require a surface area that is 800 percent larger than the plans show. This size would simply not fit on this property.
The above makes clear that the proposed system would not meet the requirements of the Montreat stormwater ordinance to meet expected large rainfalls.
In addition to the limitations of the proposed StormTech system, the MRA plan also shows that it does not intend to treat stormwater at all from the left side of the property, where they plan outdoor parking. This would also be a basic violation of the Montreat ordinance and State requirements.
Are there alternatives?
A sand filtration system might possibly work, Dr. Kays said. However, such a system is ten times more expensive, and it would also be very difficult to fit onto this property given the constraints outlined above. This should have been presented in the MRA permit application so that independent expert review would be possible.
The Montreat ordinance requires that a Special Use Permit meet all Town requirements, explicitly mentioning stormwater management as one set of requirements. The stormwater management proposal presented in the MRA application does not meet these Town requirements, and would put Flat Creek at risk.
* In the Dec. 15 hearing, Dr. Kays’ testimony begins at: 7:11:40. His cross-examination begins on Jan. 4 at 0:11:55.