Emma Dill, Wilmington StarNews - Apr 11
At full capacity, the 48-inch diameter pipeline which serves as the primary source of raw water for Southeastern North Carolina moves 12 million gallons a day, usually out of mind and out of sight.
But recent leaks and decades of use have local leaders now seeking money from state legislators to fund a new backup line. There are also major concerns over local water charges skyrocketing.
Last week, the Wilmington City Council was the latest local government to join the push, approving a resolution asking Raleigh for $54 million to $60 million to install a parallel 10-mile-long pipeline to move water pumped from the Cape Fear River to treatment plants in New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties.
LCFWSA provides water to approximately 550,000 customers across the Cape Fear region, serving as a link between the river and water treatment plants.
Government leaders in New Hanover, Brunswick, Pender and Columbus counties have already passed similar resolutions, said Tim Holloman, director of the Lower Cape Fear Water and Sewer Authority.
Much of the recent worry stems from a major leak last November. While the water and sewer authority continued pumping water through the pipeline, daily capacity dropped from its usual 12 million to just seven million gallons per day.
Each day of the leak, an estimated 30 to 35 million gallons of water from the Cape Fear River escaped the pipe, gushing into the ground nearby.
If the leak had happened during the summer, peak tourist season, when water usage spikes, parts of the region would have had to implement mandatory water restrictions, Holloman said, to avoid affecting critical infrastructure.
“You’re talking about potential impacts on the state port area, medical facilities, things that, you know, need water,” he said.
At the time, all CFPUA customers were put under a voluntary water conservation advisory while the water systems supplied by the pipe prepared for a possible shortage.
That shortage never came.
But the leak served as a wake-up call for the water and sewer authority and added to the concerns some local officials, environmentalists and business leaders have voiced over the impact rapid population growth has placed on Southeastern North Carolina's aging drinking and sewer water infrastructure.
A recent joint CFPUA, Brunswick and Pender county raw water supply analysis has shown that regional demand is forecasted to increase by 190% from 2015 to 2062. In 2015, raw water usage was 33.2 million gallons per day. By 2062, it's expected to be 96 million gallons per day.
Sooner than later
The existing single 10-mile pipeline carries water from a water treatment plant in Northwest in Brunswick County eastward until it hooks up with pipelines carrying the water into Pender County and the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority's pipeline system.
Installing a parallel pipeline would offer an alternative route if a pipe sprung a leak, needed cleaning or other maintenance. The water and sewer authority also saw significant pipe leaks during Hurricanes Matthew and Florence.
While the authority had planned to install a parallel pipeline in the next 10 to 15 years, the November leak brought the project to the forefront, Holloman said.
“We realized the importance of doing it sooner than later,” he said.
Making sure pipelines have backups is something the water and sewer authority is working toward, Holloman said, especially for larger pipelines.
“In your neighborhood, they're not going to have two six-inch water lines running in your neighborhood," he said, "but for most main transmission lines – anything 24-inches or greater – most lines are paralleled.”
Funding from the state legislature would help expedite the pipeline project, Holloman said. It could take years to raise the money needed through user fees and rate increases.
Relying on user fees alone could mean a price hike for customers, Wilmington City Council member Charlie Rivenbark said last Tuesday. Rivenbark is a member of the water and sewer authority board and sponsored the resolution that asked for pipeline funding.
Without the legislative funding, rates could double from 33 cents to 66 cents per 1,000 gallons of water.
"If we were to pay for it out of rate-payers, it would keep us from doing other extremely important projects," Rivenbark said. "It would take years to pay that back."
Typically, the legislature looks favorably on funding projects that have been moved up due to need, Holloman said.
The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority board is set to consider the resolution at their meeting next week, according to Holloman. Representatives from each local government sit on the sewer and water authority's board of directors.
Reporter Emma Dill can be reached at 910-343-2096 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article Source: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/a-leak-threatened-wilmingtons-water-supply-last-fall-officials-want-to-make-sure-it-doesnt-happen-again/ar-AAW5ARz?ocid=uxbndlbing&msclkid=960f9646b98a11ecae19f9da99dede5d