Who’s Really Running Ramseur’s Water & Sewer Department?

This morning I received a copy of an email, sent to Mayor Shaw from Rodney Darr and inspector with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ, formerly DENR), regarding an inspection he recently performed at our water treatment plant and the raw water intake at Rameur Lake. You can see the entire email by clicking here.

I’ve reproduced a partial image of the email below. Please take a close look at who received that message. Notice anyone missing? Commissioner Grant B. Cheek, in charge of our water and sewer systems, did not receive a copy of this inspection summary.

It’s not like Mr. Cheek is a new commissioner, unknown to the state inspectors; he’s been in office for almost four years, so where is Grant Cheek? Why was this message sent to the mayor and two Suez employees, but not the commissioner in charge of the water department?

There were a couple of things the inspector, Mr. Darr, felt worthy of pointing out in his findings. The first has to do with an ongoing concern for maintenance at the plant.

Tom Boyd had documented the following items on his 2017 inspection; chemical leaks are present in the chemical feed room and bulk chemical storage room. I too have documented theses issues on my 2018 and current, 2019 inspection. The chemicals appear to be leaking at most of the joints and transfer pumps in the chemical feed room and bulk chemical storage room. These areas have dried white crystallization
indicating active leaks. Since most of the leaks are at glued fittings, it has been my experience, that over time, these chemicals maybe dissolving the glue at these joints. With the added pressure following a bulk chemical delivery, the extra pressure created by a full bulk chemical tank, could have catastrophic results.

That doesn’t sound too good. I wonder, what would be the nature of a catastrophic result? Fire, chemical burns, contaminated water, explosion, the crippling of the treatment plant? All of those would be pretty serious outcomes that would indeed be catastrophic to our town. This is a problem that was apparently pointed out at least two years ago in 2017, so why hasn’t anything been done about it?

Another troubling issue that jumped out at me in Mr. Darr’s notes to the mayor has to do with chemical contamination standards in our treated drinking water.

We discussed the need for the Town of Ramseur to maximize it’s
efforts to maintain compliance with it’s disinfection by-products. The
Town of Ramseur is achieving minimal HAA removal with an running annual
average of 0.057 mg/l (0.060 mg/l is an MCL violation).

I wasn’t sure what all that meant, so I did a little research. MCL stands for Maximum Contaminant Level, the maximum concentration of a chemical that is allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a public drinking water system.

HAA stands for haloacetic or halogenated acetic acid. HAAs, often referred to as HAA5,  are a group of disinfectant byproducts formed when disinfectants used to treat water, usually chlorine or chloramine, react with organic or inorganic solids present in source waters.

Research studies indicate that several HAAs,such as dichloroacetic acid (DCA) and trichloroacetic acid (TCA), may be carcinogenic. The current maximum contaminant level, 0.060 mg/l (milligrams per liter), set by the EPA is due to concern that exposure to HAAs over many years may negatively affect the liver, kidneys, eyes, nervous system and reproductive system, and potentially increase the risk of cancer.

According to the EPA, the most effective way to reduce HAAs is to remove the precursor compounds that result in their formation. In other words, if you filter the incoming water better, HAAs are less likely to form in the first place. Haloacetic acids can be further treated in the home by using activated carbon and reverse osmosis filtration systems.

According to the budget audit report delivered to the Board of Commissioners on Monday, March 4, 2019, our water/sewer department had a positive cash flow of over $134,000 last year. Sounds like we’re going to need to spend that money and more on new fittings and better intake filtration in the not too distant future.

Listen to the short clip below and don’t let anyone tell you that now is the time to cut our tax rates; we have work to do.  Instead, now is the time to find competent, educated candidates to replace some elected officials who are either unwilling or unable to do their jobs. There’s an election coming in November and the mayor and three commissioner seats will be on the ballot.

(Sources: DrinkTap.Org, Pure Water Products, US EPA)