Sunday, July 14, 2024

CFPUA discounts water rate for Wrightsville Beach but town could be made to repay savings or join

Wrightsville Beach sees an increase in water needed during summer months, but after a well in the town was taken off-line, the town entered into an agreement with CFPUA (Port City Daily/Courtesy Town of Wrightsville Beach)
Wrightsville Beach sees an increase in water needed during summer months, but after a well in the town was taken off-line, the town entered into an agreement with CFPUA (Port City Daily/Courtesy Town of Wrightsville Beach)

The agreement discounts the price of water (for the town) but it still comes with a cost. The town must join CFPUA, continue purchasing water at full cost after three years, or pay back its savings.

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH — Water is one of the most important needs in any locality, in Wrightsville Beach, that need dramatically increases during the summer months. But with the closure of a well due to the discovery of contaminants in the water, the Town of Wrightsville Beach was at risk of not having enough water to supply the beach town during the busy season.

Last week, the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority voted to approve an agreement that would heavily discount the bulk water rates to the town for six months of the year for three years.

The CFPUA board voted to enter into the interlocal agreement (ILA) to provide the town with the bulk water rate of $.65 per 1,000 gallons of water for three years, but town customers are unlikely to see that savings of about 80% passed on to them.

“Under the agreement, CFPUA will provide as much as 45 million gallons of water each year to Wrightsville Beach to supplement the Town’s regular groundwater supply. The agreement is only for the provision of water to Wrightsville Beach. The Town must pay for all costs to provide the water to its customers, including permits, infrastructure, meters, and billing. It is CFPUA’s understanding from the Town that its customer’s rates are unlikely to change should it approve the agreement,” according to CFPUA.

Related: CFPUA responds to questions about Wrightsville Beach discount

So why would CFPUA provide this deep discount to a town it does not normally supply?

Well, it turns out that the introduction of PFAS likely came from CFPUA’s own aquifer contaminating the town’s water supply.

“The PFAS compounds in the Town’s well are believed to have migrated from CFPUA’s nearby Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) well. The ASR was designed to store finished drinking water from the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant in the Upper PeeDee Aquifer. During periods of high demand, that water could have supplemented CFPUA’s normal water supply,” according to a CFPUA release.

What does the deal mean for Wrightsville?

Part of the agreement for the discounted rate includes an agreement to release the authority from further liability for any contaminants (Port City Daily/Courtesy Town of Wrightsville Beach)
Part of the agreement for the discounted rate includes an agreement to release the authority from further liability for any contaminants (Port City Daily/Courtesy Town of Wrightsville Beach)

While it might seem like a good deal, the heavy discount is not without strings attached. There are three options the town must choose from at the end of the three-year term.

According to the agreement, “The ILA calls for Wrightsville Beach to take one of three actions at the end of the three-year term:

  1. Consolidate its system into CFPUA’s within six months of the end of the term. Essentially, all Wrightsville Beach customers would become regular CFPUA customers; or
  2. Agree to become a regular bulk water customer of CFPUA for at least five years. The current regular bulk rate is $3.48 per 1,000 gallons.; or
  3. Reimburse CFPUA for the difference between the regular bulk rate and the Short-Term Mutual Aid Rate (the difference is $2.83 per 1,000 gallons based on the current bulk rate) for all water obtained under the Short-Term Mutual Aid Bulk Water rate.”

Essentially the contract ties Wrightsville Beach into future service agreements with the utility provider or the town will be forced to repay the savings after the three-year term.

CFPUA is also making sure it is not held liable for future issues that arise from the discovery of more contaminants — and it is also not promising the water it provides to the beach town to be free of GenX.

With the agreement, CFPUA is not promising to provide GenX-free water, but only to provide the “same quality as drinking water provided to other retail customers of the authority … However, the authority makes no further guarantees regarding the quality of the water.”

It also waives CFPUA from being held liable for future contaminants found in the drinking water it provides the town.


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