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Western Wake Partners present Chatham County with a lifetime opportunity

By Tom Glendinning
Posted Tuesday, February 8, 2011

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Pittsboro, NC - The Chatham County Board of Commissioners will held a public comment session at the February 7 meeting in Moncure, NC.

I knew that several opinions would be expressed against the project, just as they were for improvements to US Highway 64. These opinions are equivalent to spitting into hurricane Fran when population growth and development are imminent and Chatham touts its pleasant rural lifestyle to newcomers.

An option to cooperate with the WWP will allow some job and development opportunities and increased tax base in an area plagued by poorly perking soils, large building lots, which is perfectly suited for industry, with high land value, and close to Raleigh and Cary.

Western Wake Partners, the consortium of towns southeast of Raleigh, has joined to build the Western Wake Regional Wastewater Management Facilities (WWRWMF) which will serve as a well designed model. The plants feature wastewater recycling, biosolids drying, a composting contract for solids, noise and odor abatement, traffic impact plan, a discharge dilution model using natural river turbulence, and discharge into the same river basin from which the water comes, the Cape Fear. Cary, Morrisville, Holly Springs, Apex are members.

Cary draws water from the Jordan Lake (Haw River basin), treats and distributes it, then discharges into the Neuse basin. This plant and discharge line will resolve the interbasin transfer issue at great expense. 2010 Phase One costs for pump station and pipeline are $ 47 million to handle 10 mgd (million gallons/day) average and 30 mgd peak flow. Add another $ 40-50 million for phase two in 2020 to raise flow to 20 mgd average and 60 mgd peak. In 2030, the design will allow 31 mgd average flow and 91 mgd peak. Details are in the excellent report from Hazen Sawyer. Years of planning and permit application are invested for one of the largest combined treatment facilities in the state.

36 permits are issued from NCDENR, WQS (water quality section), air quality, erosion control, the US Army Corps of Engineers, DOT, Public Utilities Commission, Progress Energy, CSX, Norfolk Southern, Cardinal, Dixie and Colonial Pipelines, Williams Gas Line, and the towns and counties involved. One of these is the easement acquisition from Chatham. Eight miles of the twelve mile pipeline are in Chatham.

One suggestion for the BOC: rather than bargain planning rights and decisions away for this pipeline easement, why not attempt to join the WWP as a latecomer and acquire a small portion of flow allotment for development in SE Chatham so that the poorly drained and non-perking soils there could accommodate some small industry or development? Say 5 mgd with participation in the later phase costs of the line?

The area east of Jordan has little potential for development other than Cary and has high land value. A properly sized subdivision would have its own WWTP and could easily drop a line to the WWRWMF plant. Moncure area industries could easily attached to the discharge line at Buckhorn, if water quality specs are observed. An addition to the county public works department could handle the WW authority necessary. 5 mgd is the equivalent of roughly 70,000 individuals, loosely calculating permitted flow, 20,000 homes, or fewer individuals and some decent sized industry. It's coming. Year 2030 is not far away. Let's plan for this eventuality and participate in it. Our gain in using this utility will be the most significant one in decades. The loss of land use by a few landowners, hopefully well compensated by the Partners, will be small compared to the larger gain of citizens in eastern Chatham.

The 5 mgd is a small portion of the difference between average flow of 31 mgd and peak flow of 91 mgd. And water quality is well protected by high quality design which Chatham can not afford on its own. Rather than have non-point source pollution from septic tanks and poorly maintained small package plants polluting the Haw and Cape Fear, we could have high quality treatment and reduce pollution in the water supply for Sanford, Lillington, Dunn, Fayetteville and Wilmington. Besides, the allotment of discharge for the Cape Fear is taken by the larger towns, cities and counties to our north, east and south. This may be the only opportunity to get increased discharge on the river basin. Since we gave up over 60,000 acres of lost tax base, or conservatively $15,000,000 lost revenue, to Jordan Lake and all wastewater discharge allowance to the Haw River with little to no benefit to Chatham, it is time to profit from our assets and which serve other local governments, certainly not ours. One further point:

Pittsboro may now discharge into the Haw. But it may not discharge before the Buckhorn dam. As I understand this limitation, the future development of East Pittsboro could benefit from a county partnership with WWP.

This partnership offers an immense benefit to Chatham, if we choose to join and participate. Let us move forward with the potential for growth rather than move backward into denial of service and lack of future tax revenue. Support Chatham County joining the WWP for its future health, environmental cleanliness, and tax base.

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Western Wake Partners present Chatham County with a lifetime opportunity