Friday, August 12, 2022

Pender done drilling Hampstead wells, plans to build $122-million reverse osmosis plant

One of two water tanks supplying the Hampstead area that ran dry over Memorial Day Weekend, when the county's water capacity reached 97 percent. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
One of two water tanks supplying the Hampstead area that ran dry last Memorial Day Weekend, when the county’s water capacity reached 97 percent. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)

HAMPSTEAD — Pender County announced plans to put two recently drilled water wells into production by early 2021 and to start building a reverse osmosis plant in Hampstead, projected at $71 million in capital costs over a five-year construction period and $122.6 million by 2040.

The decision follows a March budget retreat where commissioners reviewed five options presented by engineering firm CDM Smith to increase the county’s water supply to the fast-growing eastern portion of the county.

RELATED: Report: Pender has “inadequate capacity to convey water” to coastal area, over $122 million needed

“Under existing maximum day demands (MDD), the system has inadequate capacity to convey water to the eastern portions of the service area,” the report concluded. “Storage tanks empty and minimum pressures cannot be maintained in the distribution system … Due to these limitations, critical upgrades are required to provide uninterrupted drinking water to customers.”

The firm, based out of Raleigh, recommended the county build a new reverse osmosis groundwater treatment plant somewhere in the Hampstead area, which would have a 3-million-gallon-per-day (mgd) capacity, expandable to 5 mgd by 2040.

Currently, the county treats its water at a 2-mgd plant near U.S. 421 just north of the New Hanover County line, which receives water from the Cape Fear River.

The county has already begun construction of two groundwater wells to address immediate water demand needs, with both expected to pull at total of 504,000 gallons a day from the Peedee Aquifer and, eventually, piped to the future treatment plant.

Operation of the first well is expected to begin by the end of this summer, according to Keel, with both wells operational by early 2021. Once completed, they will connect to the county’s current water pipes that run along the Highway 17 corridor along the coast.

One well is located at the Hampstead Annex and the other at Hampstead Kiwanis Park.

At a total projected increase of 504,000 gallons a day to the densely populated Hampstead and Scotts Hill areas, the two tanks would be designed to increase the areas’ water supply capacity by roughly 63% to 75% — based on the area’s current capacity of 800,000 to 900,000 gallons a day, according to Keel.

Keel said drilling of the two well has already been completed, and the county will open bids on Thursday for the related construction work to make them operational — including a water processing building, pipes, and connection to the current PCU system.

“Both the wells and the constructions should be finished no later than 2021,” Keel said.

Pender County Chairman George Brown promised that one of the wells will be operational on a temporary basis by late summer. Last summer, the area experienced a drought that maxed out its water supply to the area.

He said that after the March retreat, commissioners determined the reverse osmosis plant option made the most sense economically.

According to Keel, the county is still looking for a piece of Hampstead property for the future treatment plant — ideally with enough space for an adjacent wellfield that will pull groundwater to use during the reverse osmosis process itself. If it does not, it will have to build the wellfield elsewhere and pipe the water into the plant, similar to the Richardson Plant in New Hanover County.

Keel said the five-year process to build out the plant will begin in the next few months when the county expects to hire engineering services.

The commissioners’ decision came after they commissioned CDM Smith to conduct a $169,000 study last July to determine long-term solutions to the county’s water capacity constraints along the coast.

Commissioners chose the firm’s suggested option, which includes:

  • A new reverse osmosis water treatment plant in the Hampstead area owned and operated by PCU; 3-mgd initial capacity expandable to 5 mgd by 2040);
  • Miscellaneous pipeline improvements;
  • An expansion of the existing water treatment plant’s capacity from 2 mgd to 6 mgd;
  • A new 700,000-gallon elevated water storage tank in Rocky Point;
  • And a new 300,000-gallon elevated water storage tank in Scotts Hill.

Send tips and comments to the reporter at, @markdarrough on Twitter, or (970) 413-3815

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