Thursday, February 29
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Ramseur Water Supervisor Answers Questions, Points to Larger Underlying Issues

Water flowing down a sink drain, stock photo -  (happycreator/ Adobe Stock)
(happycreator/ Adobe Stock)

RAMSEUR, N.C. – Officials with the town of Ramseur are addressing concerns about recent and on-going water quality issues, and the underlying problem extends well outside of the town.

In early December, the Town of Ramseur suffered a water main break in a 12-inch line used fill the town tank located at the old water treatment plant.

“There is an 8-inch line that runs from the tank that ties back into the 12-inch line at the old water plant to keep the town supplied with water when the plant is shut down.” says Jason Helton, supervisor at the water treatment plant in an email conversation with Randolph News Now.

To repair the break in the pipe both the 12” and 8” pipes had to be closed to take pressure off the line. “When valves are closed it allows the water to backflow through the pipes all the way to the leak which causes scaling of the pipes.”

Pipe scaling refers to the buildup of minerals and rust from the inner linings of pipes. This photo shows an example of what pipe scaling would look like if you cut into a pipe.

Photo by CEphoto, Uwe Aranas

Helton says that as a result of any water main break, fire hydrants need to be opened to allow air to leave the pipes and flush the dirty water that results from a main break, especially of this size.

“This issue was not a town wide issue and was isolated to just two locations between the line break and where the valves had been closed. Hydrants were flushed which did take a couple of days to get the water cleared back up in those areas, and the issue has been resolved since then.”

The latest incident is just another symptom of an on-going and underlying issue; “The underlying issue is old pipes, some of the pipes in the town have been in use since the 1930’s” said Helton.

In the most recent round of grants awarded by the NC Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Water Infrastructure awarded $6,811,930 for drinking water system improvements (a grant from the American Rescue Plan Act through the Viable Utility Reserve) and $194,660 for a Sewer Asset Inventory & Assessment grant to the Town of Ramseur.

“The town received [the] grant to replace a good amount of these old pipes, as well as make improvements at the water treatment facility, but the town has not received the funds yet to begin the work. As soon as the funds are received, we can begin work on these older lines and getting them replaced.”

Aging water infrastructure isn’t a problem limited to the Town of Ramseur. “The Division of Water Infrastructure’s fall 2022 application round closed with 649 submitted applications for drinking water, wastewater and stormwater funding, nearly reaching the record number of applications received in the Spring 2022 funding round,” said the department in a press release on Oct 21th, 2022, The applications for that round total more than $2.7 billion in requested funding and come from utilities in 91 of North Carolina’s 100 counties.

Since 2014 the NC Dept of Water Infrastructure has awarded $1.5 billion dollars in funding assistance to help local water systems to update and upgrade their systems. Despite the massive amount of money awarded on its website the department says that $15 billion will be needed to fund NC’s drinking water needs, and $11 billion will be needed for clean water needs such as wastewater treatment systems and sanitary sewers over the next 20 years.

“Adequate funding for water infrastructure, typically involving repair, replacement or rehabilitation of costly infrastructure [and] is an ongoing challenge at the national, state and local level,” says Cathy Akroyd Public Information Officer for the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality Division of Water Infrastructure.

“This year, North Carolina was fortunate to receive a generous amount of funding through the American Rescue Plan Act and NC General Assembly appropriations. ARPA investments expanded capacity to fund water infrastructure projects across North Carolina. Needs will still remain at high levels,” said Akroyd in an email.

Back in Ramseur, Helton says in the meantime he is looking to make changes to the water treatment process that will improve the water quality but says a lot of those changes do require engineering and state approval which can be a lengthy process.

So, is the water in the town safe to drink, cook with, or bathe in? “Yes it is”, says Helton. “The state requires the town to perform monthly bacteria testing on the water at different locations. We send these samples to a lab, and they report the results to the state. If a sample comes back with a positive result at any time, the town is required to issue a boil water notice. None of our samples since I took over in Oct. 2020 have been Positive.”

“The town board, along with my staff and myself are committed to making the improvements needed so that we can supply the best possible drinking water to our citizens.”

While the town is likely to start seeing water infrastructure improvements in the next 1-3 years, elsewhere in the county and across the state cities and towns will require continued investment to prevent the same type of issues.