Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Municipal Elections 2023: Joanne Levitan seeks election to Brunswick County H2GO Board

Joanne Levitan is running for a spot on Brunswick County H2GO’s board. (Courtesy photo)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY — Joanne Levitan is seeking a position on Brunswick County H2GO’s board. A retired field economist for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and former computer software tester, Levitan has only run for a government position once before. She ran for the Brunswick County Board of Education in 2018 but was unsuccessful.

H2GO, a sanitary district created by the North Carolina Public Health Commission, serves 16,500 water customers and 18,000 sewer customers in Belville, Leland, Navassa, and unincorporated areas of northeastern Brunswick County.

Levitan said her bachelor’s degree in economics and MBA in Information Systems from the NYU Stern School of Business provided her with business skills necessary to oversee H2GO operations. She is running against two incumbents, Barry Laub and Steve Hosmer, for two open positions.

PCD asked candidates to address issues pertinent to their districts, in this case, PFAS, customer growth and keeping rates from rising. Levitan’s answers are included in full; responses are edited only for grammar, spelling and clarity. 

The paywall has been dropped on candidate questionnaires to help voters make informed decisions ahead of Election Day.

To prepare, here are a few dates for readers to keep in mind:

  • Absentee ballots can be requested through Oct. 31 and must be returned Nov. 7 (or post-marked as such).
  • Registration to vote will be open until Oct. 13; afterward, according to the state board of elections, same-day registration will be available only during one-stop early voting.
  • Early voting begins Oct. 19 and remains open through Nov. 4 (3 p.m.).
  • Election Day polls open Nov. 7, 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

In Brunswick County, voters can cast ballots early at the Brunswick County Cooperative Extension (in lieu of the Board of Elections) at 25 Referendum Drive, Building N, in Bolivia.

Once early voting closes, voters will need to go to the location listed on their registration cards, verified here.

To see a sample ballot for the upcoming election, fill in voter registration info here.

A photo ID is required to cast a ballot in 2023; more information can be found on the state board of elections website.

The candidate’s opinions and statements are not a reflection of Port City Daily. 

Port City Daily (PCD): Why run for the board now?

Joanne Levitan (JL): Brunswick Forest was not part of the Sanitary District until after the last election so there was no opportunity for me to run until now. Brunswick Forest is a very significant part of the Sanitary District and deserves a voice on the Board.

I also have experience as a community advocate. I have for the past several years been active in the community, using my communications skills to help my neighbors understand issues our community faces. If elected, I will review and advocate for an improved communications program, providing factual and timely information on H2GO’s activities and policies. Transparency is my goal.

PCD: Name three issues you think are most affecting H2GO currently and describe how you would work toward tackling them.

JL: Ensuring that there is an adequate supply of water for the needs of our rapidly
growing area. I will work to make sure that current plans are implemented to increase capacity through the construction of new wells and the expansion of the
water plant and the infrastructure to support that expansion.

Ensuring that H2GO facilities are resilient. It has become abundantly clear that
H2GO must make sure it has the proper policies and protocols to face extreme
weather patterns, including hurricanes and periods of extreme heat. I will focus on
making sure that H2GO has resilient operations in place to continue meeting our
needs — even under extreme weather conditions such as hurricanes and higher-
than-normal consumption brought on by climate change.

Ensuring that H2GO facilities are secure. Last year, terrorists sabotaged two electrical substations in nearby Moore County. More than 45,000 customers lost their power, some for weeks. The federal Department of Homeland Security has issued a bulletin warning “lone offenders and small groups” could be plotting attacks and that the nation’s critical infrastructure was among the possible targets. Is H2GO’s infrastructure safe from such radical groups? I will ensure that we have robust systems in place to address potential security threats.

PCD: The board has said it would not increase its rates following the construction of its $42-million reverse osmosis plant. Do you agree with this approach and how do you plan to sustain that?

JL: I agree that we must keep our water rates affordable to ensure that all residents continue to have access to our services. With costs going up, it is impossible to promise that rates will not increase at some point but with the growth in the area bringing in additional revenue through connection fees and additional customers H2GO is in an excellent position to maintain affordable rates I will work to ensure we continue to keep rates among the lowest in the region.

PCD: Do you support legislation that would divide the board into electoral districts for better representation? Why or why not?

JL: Absolutely! Brunswick Forest currently has no representation on the Board and the two board members that I am running against both live in Compass Pointe. I believe that Brunswick Forest should have a representative on the Board and should not have to wait until the next sanitary district election, two years from now, when the sanitary district Board positions will likely be divided into electoral districts.

PCD: How do you plan to expand your customer base with a growing population and still retain capacity to support everyone?

JL: H2GO has already begun planning for the future. The current average daily water
consumption for the district is 3.0 million gallons a day (MGD). Total processing capability of the new facility is nearly 6 MGD. H2GO has identified 3 well sites for future raw water supplies and received state approval for those wells. A future expansion would include an additional RO train to expand capacity to 8 MGD, and then add membrane vessels to all RO trains for a total build-out capacity of 9 MGD.

PCD: What can the board do to continue advocacy for clean water protection from PFAS and holding polluters accountable? What more, if anything, can H2GO do to support these efforts on a local level?

JL: H2GO customers are fortunate that they already have clean water protection from PFAS because their water is no longer coming from the Cape Fear River. H2GO customers now receive their water from an aquifer.

The H2GO Board could strengthen its clean water advocacy by urging both North Carolina and the federal government to adopt the preferred definition for PFAS now used by 22 states: “Organic chemicals containing at least one fully fluorinated carbon atom.”

The H2GO Board should also publicly denounce congressional exemptions of PFAS from EPA’s Superfund law. Cities, like Burlington, NC, did not correctly enforce their pretreatment programs or use the funds collected from those programs to properly remove PFAS from their wastewater streams. Instead, they allowed industries to dump large amounts of PFAS down their city sewer systems and into our drinking water supply–placing the burden of clean-up on those of us who are downstream water utility ratepayers. Some local utilities believe that Congress should give utilities, including these cities, PFAS exemptions under EPA’s Superfund Law. Congressional exemptions are dangerous and unnecessary. Adding industry exemptions to superfund laws would weaken this important authority in the long term and signal to other industries they can also seek exemptions through Congress.

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