PITTSBORO — The Northeast Chatham Wastewater Study Commission delivered its final presentation in Phase I of its research to the Chatham County Board of Commissioners on Monday.
The presentation largely focused on suggestions for further research by the commissioners for ways to improve the wastewater infrastructure in the northeastern part of the county. The study region of the commission was identified as south of Orange County, west of Jordan Lake, north of U.S. Hwy. 64, and east of the Haw River.
“The growth in northeast Chatham County is undeniable and Chatham County’s current strategy for managing wastewater in this area is not sustainable long-term,” said Liz Rolison, co-chair of the commission.
She said the county lacks reliable wastewater services. In the eyes of the commission, this lack of proper wastewater is largely due to the privatization of wastewater in the county. Neighboring counties like Orange have a central wastewater supplier; Chatham, in part because of its rural layout, has several different vendors each serving different locations.
In the study region alone, northeast Chatham has 14 different private wastewater companies servicing the county. According to research from the commission, privately owned wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in Chatham have almost twice as many violations from the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality, yet they treat less than 4% of the volume of wastewater when compared to others in the region.
The commission also found that privately owned WWTPs on average charge users 49% more money for its monthly residential sewer rates, despite the lower volume of water treated.
The study commission’s recommendations stemmed largely from the land use plan from 2017, Plan Chatham. The county, however, has changed significantly since then, with the announcements of VinFast, Wolfspeed and Fedx announced in the five years since. The commission said that despite these county changes, the 2017 document provides “useful guidelines” for future wastewater research.
In Plan Chatham, public sewer is recommended as an option to amend wastewater infrastructure issues. The commission also recommended this option for future research.
“Lack of an adequate wastewater service is a key factor in Chatham County’s inability to achieve a more favorable balance between their commercial and residential tax base,” Rolison said. “Providing sustainable wastewater services will help attract the needed commercial base which in turn will help fund these improvements.”
These recommendations for implementing public wastewater or other research ideas will take 20 to 30 years to be carried out. The commission said, however, the time to act on wastewater issues is now.
Commissioners took no action on the report.
• The Chatham County Commissioners also heard updates from the county’s Public Health Department and Sheriff’s Office regarding the federal opioid settlement. The county will receive roughly $170,000 annually through the settlement to help increase drug prevention efforts in the county.
• Several rezoning requests were referred to the Chatham County Planning Board in connection with sites surrounding VinFast. The two sites are both located in Moncure. The first was a hearing for 18 acres to be rezoned from residential to “neighborhood business,” meaning if later approved by commissioners, the land could be used for convenience stores, markets, grocery, etc. near the Moncure megasite, the future home of VinFast.
The second 243-acre site in Moncure heard a proposal to be rezoned from residential to light industrial. This site is not directly tied to the Moncure megasite, but does sit adjacent to the property. Its planned uses are still unknown but the developer of the property, MAD Pea Ridge LLC, wants the land to be prepared for industrial uses as VinFast gets closer to production.
• An Apex resident, Catherine Butler, spoke during the public input session and gave a presentation to the council regarding approving N.C. Hwy. 751 as a Scenic Byway by the N.C. Dept. of Transportation. The designation would need to prove 751 has historic and cultural significance, scenic beauty and existing local support. Commissioners resoundingly said they would approve a letter to NCDOT to get the designation approved.
The next scheduled Chatham County Board of Commissioners meeting is Oct. 17 at the Chatham County Agriculture & Conference Center in Pittsboro. For more information visit www.chathamcountync.gov/government/board-of-commissioners.