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Back You are here: Home Opinion Opinion Section Editorials WHAT’S WITH OUR WATER? WE NEED A WATER SYSTEM MAKEOVER AND WE NEED YOUR HELP

WHAT’S WITH OUR WATER? WE NEED A WATER SYSTEM MAKEOVER AND WE NEED YOUR HELP

By ROBERT LEWIS
Carolina Beach Town Councilman

At last night’s council meeting I asked council to create a new water system task force to review and develop a short and long term plan for a Water System Makeover.  Since I moved to Carolina Beach water has been a huge issue for our residents and unfortunately it is not an easy problem to fix.  The issue is not just with our future water supply to address future growth, but it is also how do we as a town and agency who manages our water utility deliver to all our resident’s safe, clean, drinkable water quality.  Council has already taking the first step by approving the installation of new electronic meters in every resident and business in the community so we can more accurately meter our actual usage and use technology to upload actual readings.  Once this replacement process is complete for our 4500 or so water utility users we should have a much more efficient and accurate accountings of our water loss issues and provide us the ability to pin point problem areas quickly to reduce water losses in the future.  Our former town manager mentioned in a previous town meeting that we had an estimated 40% water loss in our system which he attributed to leaks and other issues.  In our current analysis we have found old water meters which are not recording accurate readings which are contributing to different readings from areas where water is pumped from our wells and how much is actually read by the current meters.  This investment in new electronic meters should be self funded as most of our water loss issues can be quickly identified and corrected and we can pay for the new meters with more accurate billing. 
As mentioned the challenges we face with our water system are two-fold one has to deal with water quality and the other is where we get our future water supply as we grow. 
Water Quality…. 
The quality issues are focused on problems created by old galvanized 2” water pipes, how we chlorinate our current water, how we store our water, storm water intrusion in our current system, water leaks, water pressure issues and those nasty iron deposits and discoloration.  Our recent water study shows a large area of our town with old galvanized 2” pipe all of which have been deteriorating over the last 50-60 years.  These pipes are causing water pressure problems, iron deposits in our water, storm water intrusion and other forms of potential water discoloration.   Part of our community currently has 6’ PVC Pressure Pipe and Fittings installed to deliver water to certain neighborhoods because these areas were developed over the past 10-15 years under new regulations and with PVC pressure pipes and fittings. 
• The recommendation from our town water consultants (Engineering Services) is to replace all the 2” lines with PVC 6” lines throughout our town.  
We still need to get a couple estimates on the total cost for this huge project but at today’s low cost of money (long term loans) we could potentially save the town millions in future costs to complete the project if we decided to wait 5 years to implement a plan.  (when we look to replace water lines we almost certainly should replace or upgrade our old terracotta sewer lines so when we re-pave the roads we do it once saving the town millions in total cost of the project)
• We would also look to find a solution for those areas in our town which are currently not looped (means a water line goes down one of our streets and dead ends). 
The system should have a total loop to complete a cycle of water flow.  These non loop areas provide significant problems for those residents at the end of the line – some are over-chlorinated and some are under-chlorinated. (Both could potentially add to health risks).   These areas require frequent water hydrant flushing requiring manpower and water loss.
I think that everyone on council believes putting a band aid on the problem each year as was the practice under the former town manager is not the solution and we have to think about the impact of poor water quality on our families and children. 
I know there are people out there who have said I grew up drinking our town’s water and I am fine and I do not find anything wrong with it but the issue is more than just how the water tastes to individuals it is about a sustainable water supply for the town and water quality for every resident. 
Over the past 50 years or so the delivery system (galvanized pipe has lost its useful life and now could contribute to a potential health risk).
Future Water Supply…
The water supply issue is caused because we have our own wells many of which are not big producers and the ones which are big producers and the new wells we have dug recently have issues with salt water intrusion. 
As we continue to grow these issues will become more serious so we need a long range plan to address the supply
• Replacement of our current deteriorated 1 million gallon water storage tank on Cape Fear Blvd is something we need to plan for immediately.  Our consultant is proposing we build a 3 Million Gallon ground storage tank to replace the old one.   
The longer we wait the more probability that the old tank is going to burst and leave us without a usable storage facility.
• Recommendations for the long term to address water supply also includes the investment in a Reverse Osmosis (RO) Plant to purify and turn salt water into fresh water.   This would be a system to supply and store water in the fall and winter to store for usage in the peak summer season.
• As part of the RO Plant we would also need an ASR system which would be a system to pump fresh water created by the new plant back down into our water table to store for access in peak period months.
(I give former Mayor Joel Macon credit as he was the one who initially researched the potential for the town utilizing Reverse Osmosis technology (Desalinization) to provide our town with clean water for the future)
After reviewing the recommendations of our water study recently completed Council made the decision not to tie into the Cape Fear Water Authority as a future water source as we feel it is in the best interest of our residents to control our own destiny. 
If we chose to tie into the Cape Fear Water System we would have to pay to run water lines to connect to the system up south of Monkey Junction which could cost our taxpayers over $5 Million.  We would then have to buy water at a rate per gallon set by the authority and in the future these rates could drastically increase as our residents would be paying to offset the huge infrastructure improvements needed throughout the city of Wilmington due to old galvanized water pipe. 
I would like to see council appoint a water system task force to review all the potential options, conduct a cost benefit analysis and create an opportunity to reach out to the entire community for input from our residents as we move forward with both our short and long range plans for our water system. 
Hopefully within our residential population we have some environmental, water treatment engineers or some of those nuclear engineers who would volunteer their time to join our task force and help us make the best decision for our community.