The Richmond County Water Treatment Plant faces an imminent upgrade that could cost $9 million, according to Public Works Director Bryan Land.
Land presented the issue during the Richmond County Board of Commissioners’ planning retreat, held Tuesday at the Richmond County Airport.
“We do a good job and end up saving a million dollars here, a million dollars there, and then the state mandates something that costs maybe $3 million,” said Land, who is unhappy about the cost of the upgrade, which would add U.V. disinfection to the treatment of the water.
According to Land, this upgrade has already happened at water treatment plants in Raleigh, and will soon come to water treatment plants in larger metropolitan areas around the state such as Charlotte and Greensboro.
County Manager Rick Sago explained that the U.V. disinfection process looks like a black-light, and kills all bacteria in water as the water passes through the light.
Land said he has met with the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources to discuss ways to fund the upgrade, as “funds are limited.”
“The state said we would need to go up on our water rates,” said Land. “And I said even if we double our rates — which we can’t do — we still wouldn’t make the funds we need for that. The state said we have a 24-month window. They are not force-feeding it yet, but it’s just around the corner. Larger areas can afford it, but when you try to do this to small up-fits, it’s hard.”
Land said there are already “major expenditures at the plant just around the corner” in the form of a $4 million upgrade that will happen over the course of the next four months.
“We do what we can to cut costs, and our guys are doing a great job but it seems like it’s never enough,” said Land.
According to Land, not only will the U.V. disinfection upgrade cost more than he said they can currently afford, but maintenance and upkeep such as the power bill would present further costs. He said the plant’s power bill runs between $40,000 and $60,000 a month, and the U.V. disinfection upgrade would increase the plant’s power bill by 7-10 percent.
“There is nothing wrong with the water we’re producing right now,” said Land.
In other matters, the county board:
• Received a presentation by Flemming Bell of the University of North Carolina School of Government on North Carolina General Statutes as they apply to potential conflict of interest issues.
• Heard a presentation by Jim Frederick of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke on the economic forecast for North Carolina and the impact on local government.
• Discussed the reorganization of the Animal Shelter operations as a county department, and consolidation of Human Services Departments at the state level.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.