Chatham County is undertaking an ambitious project to expand its public water service. To fund it, the government asked voters who live in the three proposed new service areas to approve $20 million in bonds at the July 20 primary. Details of the project include:

Southeast Water District (Oakland, Haw River, Cape Fear Townships) Cost: $3.2 million Potential Users: 364 Vote Tally: 424 Yes | 339 No

Southwest Water District (Bear Creek, Gulf) Cost: $7.5 million Potential Users: 1031 Vote Tally: 748 Yes | 448 No

Northern Water District (Hickory Mtn., Hadley, Albright) Cost: $9.3 million Potential Users: 1400 Vote Tally: 458 Yes | 545 No

Since voters approved the southeast and southwest districts, those two projects are moving ahead, signing up new customers at $500 a tap. After the third and largest component of the project failed in the north, supporters mounted a successful legal challenge, saying some eligible voters in the proposed district did not receive ballots that included the bond question, so that project goes back to the district’s 4,564 voters on Nov. 2.

Expanding the number of households, businesses, schools, churches and other consumers of public water will require boosting the treatment and storage capacity of Chatham’s water plant on Beaver Creek Road in Wilsonville, which draws raw water from Jordan Lake for processing and currently can dispense up to 3 million gallons of treated water a day to its 9,000 customers in northeastern Chatham. Over the last year, the water plant has struggled with management, staffing and operational troubles, drawing increased scrutiny from state regulators and nine citations for violating state and federal water quality standards. Details of those violations include:

citation date problem

8-20-03 The level of trihalomethanes, a byproduct of disinfection, exceeded the allowable maximum amount set by the EPA, of 100 parts per million; Chatham’s reading was 115.6 ppm.

9-17-04 and 10-7-04 The plant was cited twice for not meeting state standards for its treatment technique, which ensures that the process eliminate potential contaminants while using the minimum amount of disinfectant needed.

2-6-04 Required monthly samples were not collected for monitoring bacteria levels in the water during December 2003.

3-3-04, 3-30-04 and 6-1-04 In January, February and March 2004, plant operators failed to collect a minimum of one paired set of water samples–one of raw water and one of treated water–to test the total organic carbon levels. (Three separate violations, one for each month.)

9-29-04 In August 2004, operators collected only three of the 10 required water samples to test for bacterial contamination.

9-29-04 In August 2004, operators collected only three of the 10 required water samples to test for disinfection byproduct contamination.

–jennifer strom

sources: N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources records, Chatham County water bond proposals, Chatham County Board of Elections, 2003 Chatham County Annual Water Quality Report