Ruling against asset transfer could lead to customer lawsuits towards H2GO


LELAND, NC (WWAY) –The reverse osmosis plant for customers of H2GO and the water supplier itself does not belong to Belville following a judge’s ruling. This void of a transfer of assets has some neighbors pleased, but it also has left many wondering what’s next.

Customers who wanted this decision say it’s time to move on. Those who want the plant say the fight is far from over.

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“It makes no sense,” said neighbor Barry Laub.

Laub, like dozens of other neighbors, has attended almost every H2GO meeting since the new board was sworn in December 2018 and immediately filed a contempt order on the transfer. Leland followed that with an injunciton on the transfer. A year has come and gone since that vote and now it has been struck down by Superior Court Judge Charles Henry.

“It was good that the judge made the ruling and now we can move on,” said neighbor Brayton Willis.

Willis bought his water from H2GO for upwards to 8 years now. In 2017, he was on the anti-RO ticket that, by the numbers, won the election with Bill Beer edging out a pro-RO incumbent by 18 votes. Willis was against the utility putting pumps in the ground from the beginning.

“The plant was far too expensive for how much volume it was going to produce,” Willis said.

For Willis, the decision should allow for a return to normalcy at H2GO. He said the utility has infrastructure work already on the agenda including a new waste water treatment facility.

“They now can govern the way that voters intended them to govern,” Willis said.

That’s not how Laub in Compass Pointe sees it. Laub and dozens of neighbors have teamed up to let their opinion known to the current board of commissioners.

“Their position doesn’t represent the electorate,” Laub said.

Laub alongside his neighbor Steve Hosmer say this decision is not the end. Both are apart of the Clean Water Team that often speaks at H2GO meeting. Hosmer says the result of this ruling may be a boiling point of even more litigation.

“We are working with an attorney and potentially will be filling our own lawsuits,” Hosmer said adding that it would be related to the requirement of providing clean, safe drinking water to customers.

The ruling by Judge Henry was based upon the legality of the asset transfer according to Hosmer. He cites the statements made by the town of Belville that the ruling did not decide if the need for an RO plant is there. All of this outside the fact that in roughly 2 years the utility will be able to buy reverse osmosis plant filtered water from Brunswick County.

The county is currently in the process of installing a low-pressure RO treatment facility at its Northwest Water Treatment site.

“I think the county is taking the right approach coming in with a less expensive, less energy intensive way of drinking the water and I’m looking forward to that,” Willis said.

The new filtration system is estimated to cost approximately $99 million, with additional operations and maintenance costs of approximately $2.9 million per year.

“The Brunswick County solution is the more expensive solution and the H2Go solution is the least expensive solution,” said Hosmer.

If no solution can come from a new lawsuit or potential appeal, there is another way neighbors in favor of a plant can take.

“The next election is in November,” said Laub.

The town of Belville plans to hold a special meeting Thursday about the decision. A spokesman for the town tells WWAY that town leaders are still weighing their options for a potential appeal.