Water Panel Busy
The Moore County Summit's Water Task Force has more on its mind than adequate sources of water.
The task force, which has been meeting on a regular basis, has an eye on conservation, reuse of water and wastewater treatment strategy. It is also focusing on better communications between the county and the 11 municipalities.
"We want to get some discussion started on a continuing basis," said Frank Zamaroni, chairman of the Water Task Force. "We want to make sure we're all working on the same page."
That discussion will address a series of questions on water and wastewater issues next Thursday, when the task force meets at the Chamber of Commerce office in Southern Pines.
The task force has formally invited Nick Picerno, chairman of the Moore County Board of Commissioners, to attend the meeting.
Zamaroni expects a response from Picerno by the end of the week. Commissioner Larry Caddell, County Manager Cary McSwain and Public Works Director Dennis Brobst are task force members, but the invitation was extended to the board chairman because of "the high percentage of community participation" in the task force.
"We need additional information, and we need the dialogue to start happening," Zamaroni said.
Patrick Coughlin, president of the Moore County Chamber of Commerce, said no meetings of the full Summit have been held in recent months because the task force has not completed its work and is not yet ready to make recommendations to the full Summit. He hopes the Summit can call a meeting in October.
The Summit is a collaboration of local governments and local entities serving the overall community. The Chamber, one of three founding members, coordinates the effort. The other founding sponsors are the Pinehurst Civic Group and The Pilot newspaper.
Water Study Findings
Coughlin said the McGill water study had not been completed when the task force was first formed last year, and now that the McGill report is available, the task force sees a number of issues raised by those findings.
The study, authorized by the county and several municipalities, was conducted by McGill & Associates, an engineering firm with offices in Pinehurst, to determine the scope of water availability throughout Moore County and to make recommendations.
"We realize that the water situation is not just about water sources, but a number of ancillary issues, such as the wastewater treatment plant," Coughlin said. "If we're going to be good water stewards, we can't talk about water without talking about conservation. All of these issues are inter-related."
Coughlin called the McGill study the linchpin of any action taken by the county and its municipalities.
More Conservation Needed
Among the issues to be studied is the feasibility of reusing water for such things as fire protection, flushing toilets in office buildings, and irrigation of lawns and golf courses. This is part of overall conservation studies.
In the past 10 years, water shortages have become a recurring problem throughout Moore County and in much of North Carolina.
A yearlong drought led to imposition of mandatory water restrictions in most of the county last summer.
Rainy weather returned in September, when water usage limits were lifted, to be replaced by voluntary conservation measures. Rains were adequate until June, when showers became infrequent and 90-degree-plus temperatures a daily happening.
The result is a closer look at water supplies.
As yet, there is no hint of drought condition or a return to mandatory water restrictions, but water system operators continue to remind customers that voluntary conservation measures are still in force.
"We need to end this cycle of boom or bust," Coughlin says. "We need to make sure we have adequate intake sources and reservoirs. We need to consider wastewater treatment and conservation."
In his letter inviting Picerno to attend the July 16 meeting, Zamaroni said the task force has several questions from participating municipalities.
Among their questions is a detailed accounting of expenditure of increased wastewater treatment collection fees, along with plans to implement impact fees on new developments to offset a proposed sewer plant expansion.
Moore County owns the wastewater treatment plant, built in the late 1970s to serve Southern Pines, Aberdeen and Pinehurst, which shared the indebtedness. Service has since been extended to several other communities, including, by contract, Camp Mackall.
The county operates the wastewater treatment plant and system on the basis of user fees collected from participating entities. The plant is operating at about 80 percent capacity, and under state law the county must begin planning for expansion.
The task force also wants an update on the status of the partnership between the county and the town of Robbins as to the return to use of the town's water treatment plant.
The joint town-county committee met Tuesday and agreed to continue working toward a solution to an issue that could benefit both local governments and also provide a needed source of water for Seven Lakes.
Also on the subject of Robbins utilities, the task force wants to know if the town-county partnership could be expanded to the Robbins sewer plant.
The task force is interested in any progress toward improving the sewer system serving the town of Vass.
The Moore County Board of Commissioners recently agreed to find $270,000 to enable the town to draw down a $1 million grant from the N.C. Rural Center to build a lift station. The $270,000 is needed to cover such initial expenses as engineering, design and land acquisition.
Another question pertaining to Vass centers on a feasibility study on discharge into the Cape Fear River Basin. The county owns and operates the Vass utilities.
The task force will meet from 8:30 until 10:30 a.m. Thursday.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 693-2479 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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