CFPUA to assist Pender Utilities with water supply as dry conditions continue

Updated: Jul. 1, 2019 at 7:38 PM EDT
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PENDER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - With most of southeastern North Carolina experiencing a moderate drought and dry conditions expected to continue, the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) is lending a hand to its northern neighbor, Pender County Utilities (PCU), to ensure all residents have access to water.

The two utility authorities have agreed to terms allowing PCU to connect to CFPUA’s system in the Hampstead and Scotts Hill area, bringing some much-needed relief to Pender County’s strained water infrastructure.

“We have limited facilities, a single pipe, single pump station to deliver water down there. So we talked with CFPUA to determine if they would be able to help us out," said PCU director Kenneth Keel.

Starting this week, PCU will be able to purchase water from CFPUA through that connection to assist in supplying its customers during peak times. PCU will be able to use the connection through Labor Day as long as CFPUA has the water to spare.

“We went back and forth for a bit, and then we were able to come up with a tentative agreement to [buy] water, on a temporary basis, as needed, and as long as their supply was sufficient to serve their own customers,” Keel explained.

CFPUA will allow Pender County to use up to 200,000 gallons of water per day, and the county will receive a bill based on the usage.

“Pender County will be paying the same flat rate and volumetric rate, and meter set rate, as our other customers pay,” CFPUA Deputy Executive Director Frank Styers said.

Styers emphasized CFPUA customers will not be affected by the agreement because it hinges upon the utility’s ability to provide for its customers first.

“We have a very good working relationship between utilities to help each other when we can,” he said before adding, “Our existing customers won’t see any impacts as a result of this agreement.”

The water will be coming from CFPUA’s Richardson treatment plant, which has a maximum capacity of 6 million gallons per day.

If demand on the plant were to reach 5.25 million gallons per day, CFPUA would disconnect Pender County’s tap on the system.

Keel said only minor construction was needed to connect the two systems because in the affected area there is a location where pipes for each are only a few feet apart.

Residents in the Hampstead and Scotts Hill area are under Stage 2 water restrictions, he said, and the utility is enforcing them.

After Wilmington media outlets reported on a developer irrigating lawns despite the restriction, Keel said the utility company was able to respond and take action, but only because there was a specific complaint.

As of July 1, CFPUA has no water restrictions in place, but spokesperson Vaughn Hagerty said that doesn’t mean customers should stop paying attention and attempting to conserve.

“We are going into this year already with more than 10 inches below normal for the year, and it continues to be hot and dry, and it looks like it’s going to be hot and dry for a while," Hagerty said. "So we’re going to all have to keep our guard up. We are continuing to monitor the situation.”

WECT meteorologist Eric Davis said the next U.S. Drought Monitor report will come out Thursday, and it is likely the drought will deepen in certain areas.

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