Village Raises Concerns on Water Advisory
Members of the Pinehurst Village Council expressed concern during a recent work session about the fact that some residents were unaware of a water-boil advisory issued earlier this month, until after it was lifted.
The Moore County Public Utility Department issued the alert for Pinehurst and Seven Lakes late Friday evening, Aug. 18, for a mandatory 24-hour period after E. coli bacteria contamination turned up in a state-required water sample. The county owns and operates both water systems. The advisory was lifted just after midnight on Sunday, Aug. 20.
Some Pinehurst residents who had drunk the water or used it for brushing their teeth panicked when they learned of the advisory, fearing they would get sick, according to Mayor Pro Tem George Hillier and Councilwoman Lorraine Tweed.
Some residents did not find out about the alert until Sunday morning, after the water-boil advisory had been lifted.
Hillier said someone suggested to him that the village "call out the National Guard," which he saw as an "indication of the seriousness with which people have taken this situation."
Tweed said that, for many weeks, several households at No. 7 development had complained of stomach upset and other symptoms of intestinal distress that go along with drinking contaminated water.
Sensing the danger of creating mass panic, Mayor Steve Smith suggested at any given time many people in the population are probably having such symptoms, which are also common to anything from a mild case of the flu to an upset stomach.
Smith is a resident of Country Club of North Carolina, which is in the Pinehurst corporate limits but gets its water from Southern Pines. CCNC shut down its dining room to comply with a county order that restaurants and dining establishments be closed until the advisory was lifted.
"They forgot their water is from Southern Pines," Smith said.
The next morning, CCNC workers realized that there was no need to worry about their water supply.
J.D. Monroe, of the state Division of Water Quality, immediately volunteered to take water samples from the No. 7 areas Tweed mentioned for testing. He attended the council meeting during which county Utility Director Marcus Jones gave a report on the situation.
By law, Jones is required to notify the general public and the media when coliform bacteria or any other contamination is detected in the water supply that could threaten public health.
The site where the coliform bacteria were detected in water samples was retested and came back normal. Jones said there was no widespread contamination of the water system.
The county increased the amount of chlorine in the water to combat the problem, which appeared to work.
The council agreed to write a letter to Southern Pines, thanking the town for allowing the county to use its certified laboratory at its water treatment plant south of Pinebluff. Southern Pines gets it water from Drowning Creek and wasn't affected by the water-boil alert.
Jones told the council that the county was "lucky" Southern Pines Town Manager Reagan Parsons offered use of the town's laboratory, which monitors water taken from the creek.
The private lab used by the county for routine required water sampling is open Monday through Friday during regular business hours. Had the county not been able to use Southern Pines' lab, it would have had to wait until the following Monday to retest the water.
The county is looking into ways of being better prepared should another scare occur, Jones said, including making sure it has access to a lab at all times. He said the county is investigating the possibility of setting up its own lab.
Jones said he is also investigating more efficient and direct ways to notify residents of an emergency that requires immediate notification.
The county has a reverse 911 telephone system, Jones said, but it doesn't work. It also has limited capacity and needs to be replaced.
Sara Lindau can be reached at 693-2473 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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