Tuesday, August 16, 2022

New candidates say they’re against reverse osmosis, not H2Go

EDITOR’S NOTE: We caught up with candidates running for the three open seats on Brunswick County’s H2GO Board of Commissioners. Though the seats will be elected individually, this contentious election has two separate, three-candidate groups that differ philosophically from the other in nearly every topic relevant to this election.

Opposed to the reverse osmosis plant

  • Brayton Willis
  • Bill Beer
  • Donald Yousey

In favor of the reverse osmosis plant 

  • Ron Jenkins (I)
  • Carl Antos (I)
  • Rodney McCoy

This piece covers the group that is saying “No to R/O.” The other covers the group that is “Pro-R/O.”

BRUNSWICK COUNTY — A proposed reverse osmosis water treatment plant is the cause of much debate and disagreement in Brunswick County.

Three newcomers to Brunswick politics, Brayton Willis, Bill Beer and Donald Yousey, have all reportedly come out of retirement in order to participate in this election.

With a combined 115 years of experience in water treatment and public health, the men hope to put their firsthand knowledge to work on the highly-debated water treatment plant.

Affordability

Willis, Beer, and Yousey all oppose the reserve osmosis plant on the primary basis of an expectation of a rate hike. They believe that Jenkins, Antos and McCoy’s analysis, which predicts, no rate increase is false.

All three are clear to note that they do not oppose reverse osmosis as a practice, but they do oppose a reverse osmosis plant at the cost it is estimated at to be built in their county.

“We’re not against H2GO, the people over there are fine people, they do a great job of managing water distribution,” Beer said. “We’re just against this project.”

The candidates say the burden the $35 million plant would place on taxpayers, mostly at or below the poverty line according to Yousey, is an unfair expectation.

“I just don’t think you ought to put a $35 million plan on the backs of 8,500 customers,” Yousey said. “If you build it, build it for the whole county and let 140,000 people share that cost and the risk.”

The group does not agree with the move H2GO is attempting to make to uncouple from Brunswick County.

“We like the regional cooperative approach where the counties are working together,” Beer said. “They’ve actually avoided collaborating with their water supplier.”

Willis agrees. “We think partnering with Brunswick County is the only way to go,” he said.

County Involvement

McCoy, in favor of the plant, published fliers that created a whirlwind of feedback. Brunswick County responded, negating some of the information presented on the fliers. The flier stated that there are no contaminants or health effects in aquifer water and the county said this information was false and misleading.

The group in favor of the plant stands by the original documents and is suspicious of the county’s involvement in the election.

Beer was supportive of the county’s statements.

“(The fliers were) nothing more than propaganda that was being produced by people who support the plant,” he said. “(The flier) slandered the county and the county responded in like form.”

Yousey echoed Beer’s belief, seeing the county’s comments as an opportunity to defend its credibility.

“They county had to defend itself,” he said. “The county says it’s safe, the state says it’s safe, the county has no choice to defend themselves when you attack them with false information.”

Science

Aside from reverse osmosis, the group opposing the plant is looking toward alternative approaches to cleaning the water. Willis, Beer and Yousey all support pursuing granulated, activated carbon if testing results prove positive. 

Both parties disagree on the science behind water treatment and which methods are most effective. The group that opposes reverse osmosis points to the wastewater the plant will dispose of.

“Wastewater is not benign,” Beer said.

Referencing H2GO’s reverse osmosis permit application, Beer disagreed with the state’s approval of the initial permit.

“They say they will be discharging radioactive potassium 40 at levels that are not allowed by the state – the state still issued them a permit,” he said. “H2GO used the same loophole as Chemours did.”

For Willis, the contaminants driving the debate of this election particularly hit home.

“I have been personally impacted by the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune,” he said. “There is nothing that we have said that can’t be backed up with facts.”

Yousey says you cannot draw inferences from the data the H2GO supports. He believes they are using their information and support of the costly plant as a means of scaring people.

“Their data doesn’t hold up. I don’t think it’s lying so much as being inadequate,” Yousey said.

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