ROCKINGHAM — Four county residents attended a special meeting of the Board of Commissioners to voice their concerns over discoloration in their water Tuesday.
Anticipating a higher turnout — mostly based on Facebook posts alleging muddy or rust-colored county water over the past several months — organizers held the meeting in Courtroom A in the old courthouse.
“This is not a good place to have a meeting,” said County Manager Rick Sago of the venue. “But a month ago on Facebook I’d have thought there would have been 500 people up here.”
About 30 people showed up, including the commissioners and other county officials, as well as engineering and water treatment specialists who were on hand to assist County Manager Rick Sago, who — with the help of his employees — had put together an informative presentation explaining the water treatment system and the strict state testing schedule and regulations the county complies with.
“We experienced some problems, a lot of it was out of our control,” said Chairman Kenneth Robinette. “But there are things that we have to address, and we’re on it. I promise you we want everybody to have quality water. A lot of people hide behind Facebook — and you see four people show up tonight. We have personally reached out to these people and texted them and said, ‘Give me your address,’ and they won’t do it. But anyway, we’re on it. We’re going to get it fixed. I think you can see what we’ve done here today, having this open meeting for people to have the opportunity to voice their concerns. You see all the engineers we’ve got here. We’ve got the people here who could answer their questions, and that’s what we’re here for. That’s all we can do.”
“But they didn’t show up,” said Eleanor ‘Suzy’ Graves, one of the four residents who came to the meeting. “That’s their problem. I think it’s terrible, and I wish everybody in this county would take an interest. They don’t. They really don’t take an interest.”
“I know,” Robinette said. “It gets frustrating. But there are some really good people here, some great people here, and some people that really appreciate us. That makes it worthwhile.”
Graves said she is satisfied with Sago’s explanation for why the water in the county system is sometimes discolored and the remedial steps being taken to resolve such issues.
Carol Jenkins, another resident in attendance, admitted she has a better grasp of why the discoloration has occurred even though she still has reservations about using the water.
“Well, it makes sense when you look at it, but it doesn’t make you feel good when you’re taking a bath and you’re dirtier when you get out than you were when you got in the tub,” Jenkins said. “And where your clothes are dingy instead of being white.”
Asked whether she thinks her water is safe to drink, Jenkins said it depends.
“Right now, it is,” she explained. “I am not going to drink it (when the water is discolored) because I think it is harmful to my body, to my insides, GI system. And it’s also harmful to my water heater and my water fixtures. If I turn on the spigot and it’s clear, and I run water in the sink and it’s clear, then I feel okay about it. But my hot water heater’s probably full of sediment.”
Asked whether she has had her water heater inspected, Jenkins said she has only had it about two years so it should not need inspecting.
Husband and wife Steve and Anne Baggett, the other two residents who came to the meeting, are on the same county waterline as Sago. They said they experience the discoloration in their water at least once a month, but after hearing Sago explain that he drinks the water even when it is appears discolored, they feel their water is safe.
“Yeah, as long as it’s not dark, I’ll drink it,” Steve Baggett said.
Like Graves and Jenkins, they said they were surprised no one else showed up at the meeting. When asked whether they had networked with their McDonald Church Road neighbors, they said they had not.
“We just do our own thing,” Steve Baggett said. “We’re retired. We don’t like to stir anything.”
In August, residents of Cordova and areas along County Home Road and Roberdel Road took to Facebook, posting videos showing discolored water coming from their taps off the county water system and writing several complaints. At the time, County Public Works Director Bryan Land said a series of main line breaks was the cause.
During the meeting Tuesday, Sago concurred, explaining there had been a “perfect storm” of events that happened around the same time, leading to sporadic discoloration in several areas of the county.
“There is a problem, and we’re addressing it,” Sago said in conclusion. “And I really feel confident we’ve got it under control, and it’s just nothing more than keeping the water moving.”
Commissioner Don Bryant, who said he has dealt with water for more than 20 years, shared Sago’s confidence.
“Rick knows water,” he said. “He knows what he’s talking about, and I believe we have this problem solved.”
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.