Neighbors optimistic as state invests millions in clean water infrastructure

Neighbors optimistic as state invests millions in clean water infrastructure
Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 8:20 PM EDT
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IVANHOE, N.C. (WECT) - As a resident of Ivanhoe, Russell Devane is like hundreds of people across southeastern North Carolina who struggle without access to clean water.

“I’ve tried to wash clothes, especially white clothes, and they come out brown,” Devane said.

The challenges of not having a public water distribution system have followed Devane and his neighbors for years.

“In the wintertime, when it is 30 [degrees] or below, that old water pump has a tendency to go out just like that,” Devane said. “And then out out in the cold wind blew in and it’s 20 degrees outside, you have to go out [and] try to fix the water pump to get the water back going in the house.”

Governor Roy Cooper says the state has taken notice of these challenges. In a visit to Sampson County on Tuesday, he reassured residents that help is on the way in the form of a $13.2 million state grant.

“Rural counties, in particular, have a hard time with water systems and being able to afford the significant investments that it takes to make sure that there’s clean water,” Cooper said.

North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Elizabeth Biser says the state is investing $2.3 billion into water infrastructure in an effort to make North Carolina more resilient.

“That means that we’re not having situations like what Jackson, Mississippi is dealing with right now because we are proactively investing in our infrastructure,” Biser said.

Cooper says the need to strengthen the state’s infrastructure is urgent as climate change takes its toll.

“We’re seeing storms intensify,” Cooper said. “[Its] one of the reasons why we’ve made significant investments in clean energy, but we know that communities who can afford it the least often get hit the most, and this community has felt it with the floodwaters.”

The governor encourages local lawmakers to work together and apply for grants, especially as the state expects to see increased funds coming its way through the American Rescue Plan Act and recently-passed infrastructure law.

The application period for the next round of state grants closes on Friday.