ROCKINGHAM — Three dozen jugs and cases of water stacked five-high stretched across the sidewalk in front of Big Dad-EZ Tees and Phones on Tuesday for any county residents experiencing brown water from their faucets.
The giveaway was organized by Tavares Bostic after seeing multiple complaints, photos and videos Monday on Facebook.
“As soon as I posted, I got a phone call,” he said, adding that the caller wanted to donate 12 cases of water.
Twelve increased to 30 in 45 minutes, he said. Bostic even met a woman from Fairmont who donated a dozen gallon jugs.
“It was a whirlwind,” he said. “Today we showed that people can come together and help these folks.”
One of those was Dawne McSwain, who lives in Cordova.
“I didn’t realize how many were affected,” she said. “It does my heart good to see that kind of compassion.”
Bostic said he thinks a lot of people remained silent because they thought it was an isolated issue.
“I know it’s not something that’s going to change overnight,” McSwain said, but added she’s had a water problem for a decade. “Here I am paying a $50 water bill for water I can’t use.”
“Water, any color but clear, you shouldn’t have to drink,” Bostic put in. “Much less, pay for.”
Frustrated with constant problems, McSwain reached out to the state to step in.
Representatives from the regional office of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources have recently been in Cordova investigating and taking water samples.
“The most recent samples taken a week or so ago show that iron levels are good, so that likely is not causing the discoloration,” Michelle Walker, public information officer for the department, said in an email Tuesday. “Part of the problem may be sediment buildup in hot water tanks…They are working with the county to try to find a solution.”
Bryan Land, Richmond County public works director, said Monday that “every occurrence of dirty water can be linked to a disruption in the system,” adding that there had been three water main breaks within the past several weeks.
There was another on Tuesday.
“We had an out of town utility contractor performing work and ruptured our 16-inch main that runs adjacent to the roadway (on Old Charlotte Highway),” he said in an email. “This is another mishap that is beyond our control, however it is still our responsibility to maintain the best quality possible product for our customers.”
As of about 4:30 p.m., crews were still working to repair the main, he said.
Land pointed out Tuesday, as well as Monday, that water main breaks are an almost daily occurrence throughout the state.
Earlier in the day, he met with County Manager Rick Sago, Commissioners Kenneth Robinette, Ben Moss, John Garner and Don Bryant and other county supervisors regarding the water issues, including system layout and design and constraints.
“It was decided that dead end lines will be flushed as often as needed during times of high demand to keep water quality up,” he said. “We are currently utilizing auto flushers at some of our dead end locations on our larger lines, but more will be purchased for additional flushing where needed.”
Land said the county will also be posting public notices of water line breaks on its website and Facebook page to make sure residents are aware.
According to Land, the county routinely takes 30 water samples each month from locations throughout the system to test for pH, alkalinity, iron, manganese, chlorine residual, and do a bacteria analysis if necessary.
“We have a total of 75 sampling sites, for a rotation of 60 every two months with 15 alternative sites that cover the entirety of the distribution system,” he said. “We also sample from the system on multiple schedules throughout the year for various things including inorganics, organics, disinfection by-products, and more.
“At the water plant, we monitor on a 24-7 basis, tracking water quality on and minute-by-minute and hourly system regulated by state and federal guidelines,” Land continued. “From bacteriological and residual to turbidity and pH…We have consistently met and exceeded all state and federal standards.”
Land added that an open line of communication between the county water department and customers “is a must.”
“Customers need to utilize the water maintenance phone number — 910-997-8338 — for all water related issues, where calls can be logged and crews can be dispatched accordingly,” he said. “Flooding social media with complaints is not the solution.”
Water crews went out to check some homes that had posted photos of brownish water, only to find that the water was now clear and the photos were from several days, weeks or months ago.
But if it wasn’t for social media, Bostic said the community wouldn’t have come together to help those still dealing with issues.
“When the county rallies around each other,” he said, “that’s when things get done.”
Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_toler.