More water focus of Pittsboro board business

Posted 8/30/19

PITTSBORO — Pittsboro’s Town Board of Commissioners dedicated the bulk of their regular meeting Monday night to addressing one of the area’s biggest growing pains: a need for increased drinking …

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More water focus of Pittsboro board business

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PITTSBORO — Pittsboro’s Town Board of Commissioners dedicated the bulk of their regular meeting Monday night to addressing one of the area’s biggest growing pains: a need for increased drinking water infrastructure.

Representatives from Massachusetts-based consulting firm CDM Smith, walked the board through a draft of the firm’s recently completed Water Supply and Treatment Expansion Study.

“Most of your water supply sources over the next 40 years need to be tapped in some way,” CDM Smith representative Reed Barton told the board. “It’s just, what is the best order — the most strategic order — for the town?

The presentation, which marked the third time CDM Smith had presented to the board since the beginning of the year, included water need projections stretching 40 years into the future. It provided seven proposed options to increase the town’s treated water availability, including expanding Pittsboro’s existing water treatment plant, building an additional plant, and combining with other local treated water programs. It also included a long-discussed idea to purchase and pump water at least 14 miles to Pittsboro from Sanford.

Barton said that chemicals like Bromide, 1,4 Dioxane, PFOS and PFOA have been found in varying amounts within the Haw and Cape Fear rivers as well as in Jordan Lake, though the chemicals tend to be more diluted in Jordan. Barton stressed the importance of a pilot study to test the most effective water treatment solutions and assess the chemistry of the town’s water, which he says, “varies significantly” across regions of the state. The board agreed to continue with that study.

“For the amount of money that you would be spending on the overall project,” Barton said, “... it’s really a drop in the bucket to verify that we’re taking the right approach.”

As could be imagined, there is a mind-boggling cost to expand Pittsboro’s water treatment capability from its current maximum of 2 million gallons per day (GPD) to a maximum of 6 million GPD in 2040. According to CDM Smith, purchasing water from Sanford would mean an estimated $38 million spent on a piping and pumping system, not to mention the cost of treating all that water. They discouraged the idea.

CDM Smith suggested a few options for funding the project, mostly involving low-interest government loans that are geared toward community infrastructure projects, like the WIFIA and SRF programs.

The board’s water discussion kept flowing as they tackled the recently reported existence of several contaminants, including 1,4 dioxane and bromide, in the town’s current drinkable supply. The commissioners worked together to wordsmith a notice about the chemicals to Pittsboro water customers.

“I think it’s good to remind everybody that by all standards – all the legal standards – we’re doing a great job,” Commissioner John Bonitz said. “However, we are going the extra length because this information has been brought to our attention and we’re concerned. We don’t know what the problem is, but we’re concerned enough to try to solve it.”

The commissioners also reviewed a site plan for a proposed Chatham Concrete plant near Moncure Pittsboro Road. The commissioners eventually denied the permit over concerns about noise pollution and dust discharge near homes.

“I just want to say that I would welcome this plan to the town, but not in this location,” commissioner Bett Foley said. “But we’d like to see you come here, but not so close to a residential community like this.”

Though no residents commented during the period allotted for community comment, Town Manager Bryan Gruesbeck announced that Pittsboro’s staff will stop using Glyphosate, the weed-killing chemical present in RoundUp, in local projects.

It’s not quite clear whether the precaution is warranted. Though a research entity with the World Health Organization piqued the nation’s interest when it reported that the chemical was “probably carcinogenic to humans,” the EPA publicly contradicted that finding in April. Still, residents are taking notice.

“I was on one of my walks today, and the folks out at Potterstone have their garden entrance professionally done,” Mayor Cindy Perry said. “And a fellow was really interested in the idea that we were looking at alternatives.”

Gruesbeck also provided an update on several projects in the works, including a new town hall and an improvement project for the traffic circle around the town’s historic courthouse. Increasing pressures on NCDOT resources mean that the latter plan will be pushed back to 2021, he said.

In the meantime, town officials are looking to fill the empty space that once held Pittsboro’s Piggly Wiggly grocery store. Alyssa Byrd, representing Chatham’s Economic Development Corporation, emphasized that the approximately 24,000 square foot space is around 30 years old.

The EDC’s research on the grocery retail recruitment process, which the board requested back in July, revealed that visibility, parking, traffic levels and aesthetic quality are all key factors that grocery stores consider as they plan to move into a space.

“We might need a little bit of elbow grease to get it fitting a tenant’s requirements,” she told the board.

A new grocery store would be the third one in Pittsboro, joining a Food Lion and the Chatham Marketplace Co-op.

“[Pittsboro’s] demographics are a little on the light side, but they’re changing,” Byrd said. “So as we see increased rooftops, we’re going to see increased opportunity for these types of developments.”

The EDC remains in conversation with real estate brokers about the empty storefront and will update the board on its progress around October.

Jim Nass of the Chatham County ABC board also took the floor Monday night to praise the town’s ABC store for revenue increase as reported in this year’s audit. Nass also announced his transition out of his current role as board chairman; he’ll become mayor after November’s election. He promised to stay on the ABC board as a regular member through November to ease the transition, and Pittsboro’s Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to hand over the chair position to existing member Hugh Harrington.

I’ve enjoyed working with all the board members and with this board on building that ABC store into something I think the whole town can be proud of... ,” Nass said.

According to the ABC commission, 90 percent of Pittsboro ABC’s profits go into the town’s general fund.

And as residents look forward to a replacement for Piggly Wiggly, Commissioner Bonitz reminded the board that they’ll be able to tuck in at Abundance N.C.’s 12th annual “Pepperfest” food festival. It’s scheduled for September 22.

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