County bites financial bullet $3 million plus approved for water system

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Pesky ‘hardness’ of aquifer likely to remain a problem

All of Pamlico County – with the exception of Oriental and homes with their own wells – relies upon the Water Department. The utility operates as an ‘enterprise fund’ — a fancy term for a government-owned entity that is expected to run like a regular business. Producing a product, selling it, and then hopefully showing a profit. 

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020, total revenues for the Pamlico County Water Department came in at $2.6 million, with a bottom line profit (after expenses) of about $400,000.

Not bad. Except for the problem of capital expenditures. Water pulled from a vast underground river known as the Castle Hayne requires various degrees of ‘treatment’ before it flows into the homes of approximately 7,000 rate-paying customers.

And, that takes money – lots of it. In recent years, low water pressure in the Arapahoe-Minnesott Beach area, along with much of Reelsboro, has been the focus. The result? Two brand new, taller water towers serving those areas have produced significant improvements.

At least for now, water pressure has been tackled. Attention turns to improving treatment at the Kershaw Road and Grantsboro plants. In other words, SAFE water is paramount. Officials readily admit that little, if any, resources are being earmarked to upgrade water softening apparatus.  

In Tuesday night’s County Commission meeting, Commissioner Ed Riggs Jr. put it bluntly:

“The water coming out of our wells is extremely hard,” he said. Riggs should know! He is director of First Craven Sanitary District, our neighbor just west of the Pamlico-Craven county line. Riggs is responsible for much of the water delivered in that part of Craven, north of the Neuse River. 

So, sorry! Look for HARD water to remain on the wish list. Oh yes! Funding for the upgrades will come from a state-run pool of money known as the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund. Usually, the interest rate and other terms are quite favorable. Approval must come from a state entity known as the Local Government Commission. When you see a bunch of work being done at either or both water plant locations, you’ll know Pamlico County got its $3 million loan application approved.