Monday, March 20, 2023

Potential short-term solution offered on Carolina Beach Lake dredging

The lake dredging at Carolina Beach continues to move forward, and Town Manager Michael Cramer gave an update to Town Council Tuesday morning (Port City Daily photo/MICHAEL PRAATS)
The lake dredging at Carolina Beach continues to move forward, and Town Manager Michael Cramer gave an update to Town Council Tuesday morning (Port City Daily photo / MICHAEL PRAATS)

CAROLINA BEACH — The Town of Carolina Beach has received guidelines for resolution regarding the lake-dredging project that has seen several months’ worth of delays already – but the issues have yet to be resolved.

Tuesday morning, dozens of Carolina Beach residents attended a Town Council workshop to hear an update on the project, which has seen delays, as well as the rising cost of retaining the contractor allegedly caused by the suspension of dredging.

The update from Town Manager Michael Cramer consisted of four different items of discussion, including the contract suspension, MOTSU discussions, environmental testing and secondary disposal sites.

Project Manager Jim Cornette, of ARM Geothermal, Environmental and Well Drilling, the company that provided reports for the latest soil testing, also spoke in regard to the findings of arsenic in the lake dredging materials.

Carolina Beach first ran into issues with the Military Ocean Terminal at Sunny Point (MOTSU) in September.

Contract Suspension

Excavators sit idly by in Carolina Beach while the town tries to find a location to dump dredging spoils after a misunderstanding with MOTSU (Port City Daily photo/MICHAEL PRAATS)
The latest update from Carolina Beach regarding the lake dredging project was presented at a Town Council meeting Tuesday (Port City Daily photo / MICHAEL PRAATS)

The contract with Civil Works Contracting, the construction firm conducting the lake dredging was initially suspended Aug. 29, according to Cramer. At the end of October, the company began demobilization of equipment on and around the lake.

One resident addressed concerns with the amount of equipment still sitting by the lake. She said she owns a condo on Atlanta Avenue and has had to look at large equipment in her backyard since August.

Cramer said the equipment will be moved soon and the town has discussed moving all of the contractor’s equipment to a central location, hopefully by the end of next week.

MOTSU Discussions

On Nov. 15, MOTSU sent the town new guidelines for a resolution of the situation, Cramer said.

“These have not been finalized by any legal contract or document that is where we have run into difficulties with MOTSU in the past,” Cramer said.

There are five initial guidelines that MOTSU laid out for the town to help resolve the problem.

First, the materials currently existing on MOTSU property should be moved to the Old Spray Field, a location not too far from where the current spoils are located. Then within three – five years, the materials must be removed from the Old Spray Field.

MOTSU is willing to allow up to 10,000 additional cubic yards worth of material to be added to the existing 30,000 currently on its property. A new lease with MOTSU would be established to allow for the spoils location for the duration of three – five years.

Finally, at the end of the lease MOTSU would require the town to return the property to its previous conditions.

There were some questions as to why moving the material several hundred feet away from where it is currently located is necessary.

“They want us to move it from this side of the yard, to that side of the yard. It’s kind of like ‘Cool Hand Luke,’ we’re filling the hole and then we’re digging the hole then we’re filling the hole,” Councilman Steve Shuttleworth said.

Environmental Concerns

The discovery of arsenic in some of the materials sampled by testing has raised several questions from the town, as well as problems regarding where to place the spoils. Because of these complications, the town proceeded to test the soils again since the last test was completed several years prior.

The latest soil sample testing revealed there was arsenic found in the lake materials, but not in levels high enough to be a concern on MOTSU property.

Cornette explained to the council that arsenic below .68 parts per million was deemed acceptable, while anything over that threshold required special disposal.

“The State of North Carolina has adopted two different action levels for arsenic. These action levels represent risk levels to human health and the environment. Those levels are 0.68 milligrams per kilogram … anything less than that does not represent a threat to human health, and 3.0 milligrams per kilogram which is an industrial commercial health base remediation goal,” he said.

Essentially anything below .68 is deemed safe, while anything above 3.0 requires special attention, he said. In 2008 the study found 14 and 20 parts per million in the soil testing, well above the 3.0 threshold.

In 2017 when Cornett’s company conducted a soil test there were three higher levels of concern located within the areas on the lake sample location map labeled L-1, L-2, and L-5.

Testing areas in the lake at Carolina Beach (Port City Daily photo/COURTESY CAROLINA BEACH)
Testing areas in the lake at Carolina Beach (Port City Daily photo / COURTESY CAROLINA BEACH)

The rest of the sampled areas all tested positive for arsenic, but all occurring at levels below the .68 health threshold. In L-1 the sampled level was 8.0 and in L-2 6.33, the levels in L-5 were below the 3.0 industrial threshold but above the .68, coming in at 2.65 milligrams per kilogram, Cornett said.

The soils that were placed on MOTSU property did not contain elevated levels of arsenic, and neither did the groundwater.

“What that tells us is ‘yeah the material is there,’ I can’t speak to the concentration that ECS found at the Waste Water Treatment Plant, but based on all of our findings there is no evidence of elevated arsenic on the MOTSU property,” Cornett said.

Secondary disposal site

The final issue facing the town is finding a disposal site for the lake spoils. This has been an issue since the discovery of arsenic in the soil.

There is also an increased cost associated with finding a new disposal site, due to the cost of hauling the materials off the property.

The town has looked at three general areas to put the material including local construction sites, the New Hanover County Landfill, and town property behind the LORAN Station, Cramer said.

The new location is something the town staff will continue to work on; no solution has been reached as of yet.

Lake Dredging Project – PDF by Michael James on Scribd

Michael Praats can be reached at

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