Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Wrightsville Beach moving on $2M in water projects as high chlorides persist

The project would make the town’s infrastructure suitable to be fully serviced by CFPUA. (Port City Daily/Preston Lennon)

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH — The Town of Wrightsville Beach has begun the search for an engineering firm that can handle around $2 million worth of upgrades to its water system, at a time when high chloride readings in town wells are forcing action. 

The necessary annual water supply for Wrightsville Beach — around 300 million gallons for its 2,700 customers — has been compromised by high chloride levels in seven of the town’s nine wells. The snafu previously prompted consideration of a large-scale water purchase from Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, designed to tide the town over until the summer, but it also seems to have prompted movement toward Wrightsville Beach becoming fully serviced by CFPUA.

“The Town, at some point in time, will need to purchase all 300 Million Gallons of water from CFPUA,” according to the request for qualifications for infrastructure improvements. “In order to receive all water from CFPUA, the Town will need to upgrade the current system as identified by modeling and a prior study.” 

Submittals from interested firms are due Mar. 1. Pipes across town, some of them underwater, need to be paralleled and replaced, according to a study by McKim & Creed that informed the anticipated price tag of $2 million.

“We’re sort of limping by now and can make it, but those improvements have been identified by our engineer,” town manager Tim Owens previously told Port City Daily. He added that were it not for the high chloride levels in the wells, additional reliance on CFPUA right now would not be required. 

Owens asked the board of aldermen to put the $815,000 received through the American Rescue Plan Act — a federal Covid-19 relief package — toward the infrastructure improvements. The money is only usable through 2024. 

The Town plans to negotiate a contract with the “most qualified vendor” that responds to the RFQ, then the board of aldermen will approve an agreement. 

In the meantime, the town is purchasing 150 million gallons of water from CFPUA, which will run through the wells that are not currently abundant with chlorides. The affected wells have been taken offline. 

At the Jan. 13 board of aldermen meeting, Owens brought forward the request for enough water to last six months. CFPUA planned to charge its regular bulk rate of $3.48 per 1,000 gallons, an increase since the beach’s last purchase, charged at 65 cents per 1,000 gallons. 

The board was uncomfortable with the rate increase and asked Owens to try to procure a better price. 

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