Brunswick County officials announce plan to settle H2GO dispute

Brunswick County officials announce plan to settle H2GO dispute

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - Officials with the towns of Leland and Belville, along with the Brunswick Regional Water and Sewer H2GO Sanitary District, announced a potential agreement that would settle litigation surrounding H2GO’s water and sewer assets.

“In addition to resolving the long-standing legal matter, this potential regional solution would empower the Sanitary District as a water and sewer entity,” a joint news release stated.

The agreement would require Belville to return all Sanitary District assets, Leland would convey its water and sewer lines to the Sanitary District, the Sanitary District would operate and maintain all water and sewer assets as a singular system, and the Sanitary District would construct an aquifer-based reverse osmosis water treatment plant.

During the talks between Bellville, Leland, and the Sanitary District, the town of Navassa and Brunswick County have been part of the conversations, with Navassa possibly joining the potential agreement.

“In the next several months, the water and sewer concept will be drafted into documents that will be presented to Belville and Leland town councils, as well as the Sanitary District board, for consideration,” the news release stated. “If approved, the agreement would end all litigation, including any appeals, between Leland, Belville and the Sanitary District.”

Frank Williams, chairman for the Brunswick County Board of Commissioners, issued the following statement regarding the announcement:

“While I disagree with the ultimate outcome of the discussions, I applaud the officials from Leland, Belville and H2GO for finally coming together and talking with each other. This issue has been a lingering cloud over northern Brunswick County for far too long. With that said, the County still maintains that the entire region and County would benefit from the economies of scale of having a single low-pressure reverse osmosis plant operated by Brunswick County. As a Leland resident and H2GO customer, I hope the parties will remain open to that option. Brunswick County remains committed to providing clean, safe drinking water for all Brunswick County customers.”

In 2017, the outgoing H2GO Board of Commissioners voted to transfer $56 million of H2GO assets to Belville in a last ditch effort to save the controversial reverse-osmosis plant. Voters, some of whom thought the reverse-osmosis plant was unnecessary and expensive, had voted in a new board of commissioners opposed to the plant. The vote to transfer assets for a mere $10 to Belville came before the new H2GO board had been sworn in.

For the last two years, H2GO has been in a legal battle with Belville to regain control of the assets.

In a court order signed on July 12, Judge Charles Henry entered a permanent injunction, which would essentially force Belville to return the water and sewer authority’s assets to H2GO. However, his permanent injunction did not take effect immediately.

“The court, in exercise of its discretion, has decided to stay and suspend the permanent injunction granted herein while any appeals....are pending...,” Henry wrote in his order, allowing Belville to continue its appeal before they are forced to return H2GO’s assets.

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