Status Report on the Water Utilities for the Town of Woodland
(August 16, 2018)
State Mandate for Water Utilities: The State Water Infrastructure Authority, which was formed in 2013 by the N.C. General Assembly was tasked with assessing and making recommendations about the state's water and wastewater infrastructure needs. A letter, dated March 21, 2017, was sent out to all agencies that operate water and wastewater utilities, explaining the plans for the state to ensure that all individual water utilities are, or are on a path to be viable systems.
To this end, the State Water Infrastructure Authority completed a blueprint entitled “North Carolina's Statewide Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Master Plan: The Road to Viability.” This document is a road map for developing and maintaining viable water and wastewater utilities that safeguard public health, protect the environment, encourage economic development, and support vibrant communities. Simply said, each town and county which operates a water utility is responsible for ensuring that those water utilities are being operated as vibrant and successful businesses, which are self-sufficient. A copy of the letter is attached for your review.
Water Revolving Loan for New Well – On October 4, 2016, Woodland was formally approved to receive a water revolving loan in the amount $663,550.00 from the NC Department of State Treasury, State and Local Government Finance Division and the Local Government Division. The funding request was made by the town, in order to install a new production well for the town's drinking water.
The term of the loan was set at a period of 20 years. One-half of the loan amount ($331,775.00) was determined as “Principal Forgiveness,” which means the Town of Woodland would not be responsible to pay back that amount. Pursuant to the terms of the loan, annual payments in the amount of $16,588.75 were to made each year in May of each year.
New Well - We have completed a large portion of the project to install a new well on Linden Street (NC Route 35). The well has been drilled and all the water quality tests have come back as satisfactory. We are now in the process of installing the wellhead, or structure to cover the well. This structure will also house the tank which will contain the chemicals needed to treat the water. It is hoped that this project will be completed by the end of 2018, or early 2019.
Drilling for the test well project on Linden Avenue commenced in mid-March 2017. According to the contract, it was agreed that expenses would be covered down to a depth of 360 feet. A.C. Shultes, the contractor on the project, did find an aquifer at that depth, but according to geological studies; a larger aquifer, the Cape Fear Aquifer, was located at 420 feet.
Due to the excessive depth involved, the costs of the test drill project was increased by approximately $18,740.00, from $130,242.27, to $148,982.27. This was an alarming concern for the Town Board. Mr. Blaine Humphrey, an engineer from Rivers and Associates and the Project Engineer stated, “Drilling for water is not a precise science and there is no way to know what you are going to find, or where you will find it, until you actually start drilling.” The drilling was completed in mid-May 2017.
Once the well is completed, Well # 1, located on Oak Street, will be permanently closed by a state certified well abatement contractor.
Water Meters - Mr. Marshall Lassiter, the town's Officer in Responsible Charge for the water and wastewater system has recommended that we replace the town's water meters. We have a total of 259 meters in town. Based on recent assessments, 97 meters register that over 1 million gallons of water have gone through each of them. According to state standards, any meter that has over 1 million gallons of water, should be replaced. Mr. Lassiter said he would recommend that the meters be replaced at 2 million gallons.
According to Mr. Lassiter, when a meter has experienced over 2 million gallons of water, on average, it becomes between 9%-15% ineffective. That means we are losing between 9% to 15% of our water. The water is passing through the meter, but it is not being registered. That means we are not charging our customers for that 9%-15% of water usage. The water utility is losing money and the town is losing money. The town is still paying the electric bill for the pump required to pump the water through the town, but the town is not being reimbursed. This has to fixed.
Currently, we have 41 meters in Woodland that register having had in excess of 2 million gallons of water pass through them. We also have 97 meters with over 1 million gallons of water registered.
Mr. Lassiter said that since the town needs to consider replacing a considerable number of water meters, this is the time to consider purchasing and installing auto-read meters.
The Town Board is considering investing in wand meters. They are more expensive than standard meters, but in the long run, they will prove to be very cost effective.
Mr. Lassiter stated that we use approximately 36 man hours to read meters each month. With a wand reader, it would take 1 person 4 hours to read all of the meters. He said replacement meters will cost approximately $75 each. Since the town must replace so many of the meters, this is the time to consider changing over to an auto read system. The purchase and installation cost will be between $55,000 and $60,000.
Fire Hydrants – During the Town Board Meeting on May 3, 2018, Mr. Lassiter also informed the Board Members that he and the Public Works Crew recently did an extensive fire hydrant flushing test on all of the hydrants in town. He said there are 15 hydrants that require significant repair, or replacement. He said this is another need for the Town Board to consider. New valves will also need to be purchased for each of those hydrants.
Valves for Underground Water Pipes - If we are able to apply for and obtain a grant to repair our drinking water system, we need to consider not only replacing those 15 hydrants, but also placing new valves (20) at strategic locations throughout town so that we can shut off water at certain locations, without having to shut water off for the entire town, or a large section of town. For example, if there is a water line break on Peach Tree Street, the water would have to be shut off for the entire north side of town. The problem may only affect one, or two homes, but because there are no valves in that neighborhood, the water must be shut off at Main Street. This scenario has played itself out on numerous occasions over the past few years.
Asset Inventory Assessment Project – On June 2, 2017, Woodland received notification from the state that it was approved for a Wastewater Asset Inventory and Assessment Grant from the Water Infrastructure Fund in the amount of $76,000. Special features of the grant included a 1.5% ($1,140.00) Grant Fee. Additionally, 5% of the grant could be paid through “In Kind” services, such as the cost of labor required to complete the project.
The engineering firm of Rivers and Associates was hired to perform the work. As a result of the grant, two documents were created:
The Asset Inventory Management Plan: The Asset Inventory Management Plan presents a detailed description of the wastewater system and how it is operated.
The Capital Improvement Plan: The Capital Improvement Plan identifies the problem areas of the wastewater system, the estimated cost for repairs and a three-phase program to repair those areas. The estimated costs of repairs for the wastewater system is $3,282,000.00.
Violations Cited for Sewer Overflow – The underground pipes of the town sewer system is in desperate need of repair. There are cracks and breaks in the pipes, as well as in some of our manholes. This allows rain water and debris to enter the pipes and the sewer system, whenever the town experiences heavy rain. Due to the excessive amount of water that enters the sewer system, the system becomes over flooded, which results in sewer overflow. This is a violation of the permit issued by the state, to allow the town to operate the wastewater system. As such, whenever there is a significant amount of sewer overflow, the town must report the incident to the State of North Carolina's Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Division of Water Quality.
As a result of these reports, the Town of Woodland has been cited by the state for having violated the conditions of its permit on seven occasions. The town was ordered to pay a civil penalty for three of those violations.
Incident Date(s) Estimated Gallons Penalty
11/11/2009 163,500 $2,074.48
06/01/2012 9,000 No Penalty
09/08/2014 8,395 No Penalty
11/26/2014 15,000 $301.13
10/2/2015 21,375 No Penalty
09/32016 – 09/21/2016 150,000 $2,531.76
04/24/17 – 06/05/2017 22,950 No Penalty
From 2009 through 2017, the Town of Woodland has had many incidents in which we have suffered sewer overflow from our system. Of all of those incidents, the town was cited with violations on seven occasions. The town was fined on three of those incidents and was ordered to pay a total of $4,907.37.
Community Development Block Grant – The Town Board of Commissioners is seeking to obtain a CDBG in the amount of $2 million, to assist in the repairs of our wastewater system. It is hoped that the funds will be provided to repair two of our lift stations, which are responsible for pumping wastewater from the town to the wastewater facility treatment plant outside of town. The funds will also be used to repair and replace some of the underground pipes and manholes.
Public Hearing for Community Development Block Grant – A public hearing has been scheduled for Monday, August 27, 2018, at 7:00 pm, to provide specific information to the community about the grant.
Please be assured that the Town Board of Woodland is committed to continuing to provide good, dependable and reliable water utility services to the town of Woodland. We are here to serve you.
Respectfully Submitted By: Kenneth W. Manuel, Mayor - Town of Woodland