Here’s the water treatment plant inspection report referenced in remarks Commissioner Brower made last Tuesday night. The report includes a full explanation of what caused our water to turn brown a few months ago, so it’s worth reading for that reason alone. I have removed several web links that were embedded in the text and cleaned up a little grammar to make it easier to read. Bolding is mine.
BEGIN QUOTED TEXT
On Sep 18, 2023, at 10:28 AM, Appelboom, Tim W <tim.appelboomATdeq.nc.gov> wrote:
Good morning. I met with Jason Helton on September 7, 2023, to inspect the Town of Ramseur’s water treatment plant, raw water intakes, booster stations, storage tanks, interconnects, and associated distribution system. We appreciate Mr. Helton’s time and cooperation with the inspection. I have copied him on this email.
Compliance sampling is currently up to date with all required samples having been taken. The number of operator site visits is consistent with that required. The treatment plant appeared to be operating as expected.
Items needing attention are as follows:
The Stout Street tank will be put back into service soon so that maintenance can be conducted on the Weatherly Tank. Please ensure that an engineer’s certification and a total coliform / E. Coli (TC- / EC-) negative water sample is collected and submitted to the state prior to the Stout tank going back into service.
The lab’s STABLCAL and pH standards were past their expiration dates at the time of the inspection. Mr. Helton said he will order new standards.
One of the valves in the chlorine feed room was dripping at the time of the inspection. Mr. Helton said this will be fixed.
The permanganate tank at the old treatment plant needs to be in an enclosed structure to protect the tank, pumps, and chemicals from the elements.
The track Vac system is currently not working. Mr. Helton has been looking for parts to make repairs. Currently, the water plant is manually cleaning the sedimentation basins quarterly.
Currently, the filters are being run at an average rate of 3.69 gallons per minute per square foot of filter surface area. The maximum filter volume rate allowed for mixed media filters is 4.0 gallons per minute. The maximum rate achieved for the month of July was 5.48 gallons per minute.
During the preparation for this inspection, it was determined that there was one set of plans and specifications (SN: 17-00268) that needed one of the following: an Applicant and/or Engineer’s Certification for final approval, an Authorization to Construct extension, or a project termination (I have attached a copy of your current plans and specifications for your convenience).
The system had a complaint about dark water in the second half of July. This was a combination of high manganese in the raw water coming into the water plant and a faulty valve on the filter to waste line. The leaking valve allowed non-chlorine treated water to enter the filters from the sedimentation basins overnight when the plant was not running (the chlorine is fed on top of the filters when the plant is running to precipitate the manganese so the filters can remove it before being pumped to the Clearwell). This water would then be filtered and pumped into the Clearwell. Once into the Clearwell, the manganese interacted with the chlorine already in the Clearwell to cause dark water. Mr. Helton said that the plant now runs filter to waste at startup each day prior to the plant sending water to the Clearwell to ensure all untreated water is removed from the filters. Currently, the plan is to have the filter media and the filter valves replaced with a completion date of December 2024. This should be a priority for the Town and the water plant as it restricts the production of the water plant and allows a possibility of lower quality water entering the distribution system. Finding the leaking valve and creating a workaround until it can be fixed demonstrates Mr. Helton’s experience and knowledge of the Ramseur water plant.
We discussed the plans for an interconnect with the City of Asheboro. Please remember that the bidding on this project cannot commence without plans and specifications being submitted to the North Carolina Public Water Supply Section Plan Review and final plan approval given.
We also discussed the plan for the Ramseur Water plant to switch from chlorine gas to bleach, and eventually add ammonia to run on chloramines to match the other water plants that will supply water to the mega site. This will also require plans and specifications to be submitted to the North Carolina Public Water Supply Section Plan Review and final plan approval given.
Any testable backflow prevention assemblies owned by the town, both in the water treatment plant (including those on chemical feed pumps) and throughout the distribution system should be tested and maintained according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Also, continue to update and maintain a list of private backflow prevention devices throughout the distribution system.
We thank Mr. Helton for his cooperation during the inspection and for his and his staff’s work in providing quality water to your customers. If you have any questions about the inspection or related issues, please feel free to contact me.
END QUOTED TEXT
Commissioner Brower amended the meeting agenda Tuesday night so she could sing praises to Mr. Helton for an outstanding inspection. I’ll agree that he’s a competent and creative water treatment plant operator, and like all workers who make an earnest effort on the job, he deserves praise when he gets caught doing the right thing. It’s his job to be accommodating to inspectors when they come calling, but I wouldn’t go around bragging about that report. It certainly didn’t qualify as much more than acceptable, given that we all know how badly the plant was maintained during the time Suez operated it.
The commissioners made an expensive mistake when they budgeted almost $100,000.00 for Mr. Helton’s wages this fiscal year, and we’re all going to pay that bill. It’s too much money for any department head in a place this small, especially when we’re being told we can’t afford a proper town manager and we still aren’t up to date on past-due budget audits. I emailed Ms. Akers about a week ago with a question about how that deficiency affects the town’s ability to win grants from our state or federal governments, but I have not received a response to that query as of this writing.
Salaried department heads in most places get comp time (extra time off), not overtime pay. I see no provision for overtime pay afforded to Chief Presley. Are some department heads treated differently from others? It certainly looks that way from here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not faulting Mr. Helton, nor am I attempting to create any animosity between department heads. I’m just pointing out the facts.
We have one department head with roughly thirty years of experience in his field, law enforcement, being paid a fair salary plus comp time, and another with less experience in his industry, and even less management experience, essentially written a blank check for overtime pay and shown how much is in the bank so he doesn’t overdraw the account.
That’s bad management on the part of the commissioners, and another example of why Ramseur cannot afford to go another year without hiring a properly trained town manager and giving that person the full authority they’ll need to do the job. If that means taking power away from the five elected commissioners, so be it. Every board I’ve seen since I arrived almost ten years ago has misused or abused its authority, playing petty middle-school politics against one another. This board may be the worst of the crop in that sense, and you and I get stuck paying for their poor decisions for years, sometimes decades after they leave office.
The commissioners accuse me of being “divisive and disruptive” for the sake of anarchy or sport or some other equally ridiculous reason, but if they were doing their jobs in a more transparent, equitable, and honest fashion, perhaps no one would feel the need to disrupt them. As for being divisive, if that’s my goal I seem to be failing because I’ve not seen one vote taken since Commissioner Hatchett joined the board that didn’t pass unanimously. They certainly seem to be united in their dislike of me, and that’s perhaps the most disappointing part of all.
With the exception of Commissioner Kearns, I helped every other member of this board to get elected or appointed, and I voted and campaigned for them in two different election cycles. Three of them have never even had a conversation with me longer than thirty seconds, despite my offers to do just that. They don’t know me and they refuse to even try.
They have all passed judgment against me based on hearsay, lies, and rumors spread by people who sometimes aren’t even mature enough to put their real names on their remarks. It’s childish, and I refuse to play their games. All offers to have an adult conversation are now rescinded. I made the effort, and I got my answer, in the form of even more lies, and I can and will prove that when appropriate.