City, CFPUA differ on how to close books on 2006 sewer issue

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Submitted: Wed, 05/08/2013 - 9:41pm
Updated: Thu, 05/09/2013 - 12:04pm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — After five years of work to improve public utilities, the CFPUA is looking to move forward with the EPA’s approval. But to move forward it must correct problems made under the City of Wilmington’s watch prior to CFPUA’s 2008 takeover.

From 2003 to 2008 an aging, deteriorating sewage system saw more than 11 million gallons of wastewater spill from its lines leaving many New Hanover County residents feeling the effects of a stinky situation.

“The Clean Water Act says that you should not have any wastewater spills beyond your control,” CFPUA CEO Matt Jordan said. “They always look at all of those, and you have to report those, and they’re looking for ways to eliminate those.”

Since CFPUA took over the water and sewer assets and liability of both the county and city in 2008 it has been working with the EPA on a consent decree that would see CFPUA spend millions of dollars on facility and pipeline repairs that in the past have contributed to violations of the Clean Water Act.

“Our goal is to eliminate all wastewater spills, and realistically that’s difficult to do,” Jordan said. “We have shown and demonstrated that through these programs and carefully planning and replacing infrastructure that you can do a very good job in improving those.”

The only sticking point on the consent decree appears to be money.

The City of Wilmington put a stop to a vote that would have spent $420,000 on civil penalties and a supplemental environmental project. Instead, the city would rather pay a $300,000 fine.

“The council just felt like this would be a great way to put a dark page in Wilmington’s history and New Hanover County’s history to bed,” said Wilmington City Councilman Charlie Rivenbark, who is also a member of the CFPUA Board of Directors. “This was all caused by the Northeast Interceptor sewer line break back in 2005 or 2006, and this is a way to just kind of put it to bed.”

The City of Wilmington has been holding money to pay for the fine in reserve since the violation occurred when it was in charge of its own sewer and water service in 2006.

Wilmington City Council will discuss the issue again at its next meeting.


  • Clueless in KG says:

    There was no Kings Grant Water system…there was cheap well water, subsidized by New Hanover County (wells) meaning you paid far below the actual cost. NHC residents were getting groundwater with a little chlorine thrown in.

    The other issue…your septic tank was no problem for you. Just everybody else downstream. For the same reasons you cite (cost), people have septic tanks but bury them and forget them. They don’t pay to pump them out, maintain them properly, and a host of other issues (as Heritage Park and Marquis Hill…and a lot of others demonstrate).

    I am sorry about your husband’s terminal cancer. It runs in my line, too…but that is merely a distraction from this issue.

  • beachlady says:

    I was forced to tap on to the new “Cape Fear Utility” system just after my husband was told he had terminal cancer. Prior to that, my water was supplied by the Kings Grant Water System and my cost was about $16.00 a month. Then I was told I had to get rid of my septic tank – that had given me no problems and pay a tap on fee and pay for the connection. All of these required funds I did not have. Your should not require people to tap on to your system who do not need it. The additional taps have most likely caused system failures. I resent the additional expense to me and the poor performance of the system.

    What I had worked. Leave what works alone.

  • FixingStupid says:

    Kings Grant water system has not existed in over 15 years. CFPUA had nothing to do with that. Where have you been?

  • jj says:

    I guess they didn’t check into everything before they got started. I had no problems when the City ran this. Now CFPUA spends more time in trying to figure out how to raise rates than fix their system.

    They are adminstrator heavy and need to lose some of the topend to save money.

  • HeyJJ says:

    “I guess they didn’t check into everything before they got started.”

    JJ…your post doesn’t make any sense. First off…the CITY and COUNTY formed CFPUA to run away from their problem…divest themselves of the issue and further responsibility as a result of violating the Clean Water Act.

    You never had a problem with the City? 11 million gallons of sewage in the estuaries doesn’t do it for you?

    CFPUA did not magically appear. Those involved with the formation (and those who were first hired to work for CFPUA) knew EXACTLY what they were getting.

    The whole article and issue is about charging the money to fix the problem. CFPUA’s operating costs (which include salaries) have gone down every year they have been in existence.

    What part of ANY OF THIS do you really understand?

  • Vog46 says:

    The city is responsible for the spills in 2005/06
    They got fined and as part of the fine they were required to do an environmental project?
    In 08 CFPUA took over and started negotiating a settlement with EPA?
    Now the city JUST wants to pay the fine ($300K)
    Instead of the fine and the project? (Total of $420K)?

    Thereby stiffing the CFPUA with the project costs?
    OK first off – there are many regulations pertaining to cities/towns and businesses that contain the codicil of “the entity in charge at the time or the successor entity.”

    it would appear to me that the city is looking to save 33% off the total cost by saying “Hey CFPUA you fix it!”
    Am I right?

    Yet here we have NH County saying Marquis Hills and Heritage Park need sewer help and even though CFPUA is “in charge” these folks have had problems for years and the County is gonna help pay for those main sewer lines to be put in.?????
    Do I have these situations straight?
    As much as I dislike NH County government elected officials – they appear to be acting more like grown-ups. Yes? No?


  • Shhhh says:

    Subject line says it all, Vog. The great COW kept 2 mil in escrow waiting for this… When it was discovered that their portion (fine) was going to be significantly less, they made mutterings about keeping all the rest of the dough. Apparently (and this isn’t a done deal yet) EPA said something along the lines of, no that is CFPUA’s money to continue to fix your legacy.

    Watch them like a hawk (COW). Despite the CFPUA bashing which continues…they are doing everything EPA wants…and have been trying since they were formed. It doesn’t help matters that you still have COW council members and NHC commissioners sitting on the board.

    It’s like attending a family reunion where your parents are divorced and your sitting in the middle.

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