Northampton approves regional study

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 1, 2003

JACKSON – &uot;We don’t see this as an end, but rather a beginning or a step forward,&uot; said Consulting Engineer Joe McGougan of Hobbs, Upchurch & Associates, P.A. during a presentation to Northampton County Commissioners, here Monday.

In an effort to address the deterioration of existing water and wastewater infrastructure in Halifax and Northampton counties, the counties agreed to partner with representatives in the area from all levels of local government to have the engineering company perform an assessment of the condition and needs of water and wastewater systems.

The study, which was conducted with an eye toward attracting commercial interest, residential development and industrial expansion, included evaluations of existing utilities within the two counties and a quantified amount of materials, manpower and construction costs for implementing potential repairs and/or upgrades.

&uot;The purpose of this study is to provide for economic development as well as to ensure the safety of the citizens and shows a willingness of the participants to work together,&uot; said McGougan, who added that project funding came from the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center, United States Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration, North Carolina’s Northeast Partnership, Halifax Horizons and Upper Coastal Plain Council of Governments.

Besides Northampton and Halifax counties participation in the study, Roanoke Rapids Sanitary District, City of Roanoke Rapids, Enfield, Weldon, Littleton, Halifax, Hobgood, Rich Square, Conway, Woodland, Seaboard, Jackson, Severn, Lasker, Gaston and Garysburg also agreed partake.

&uot;This study has provided us with a tremendous amount of information,&uot; McGougan said.

As a result, Hobbs, Upchurch & Associates were able to compile infrastructure data for each utility system, financial figures and detailed descriptions of water consumption and wastewater flows.

&uot;It’s interesting,&uot; McGougan said. &uot;The eastern part of Northampton County has an abundant access to groundwater with limited availability to surface water, while the majority of Halifax County has reasonable access to surface water, but a limited ground water supply.&uot;

McGougan stated, due to its abundant access to groundwater, Northampton County could consider identifying potential customers and developing a system to sell some of its raw or treated water.

&uot;The abundance of available groundwater is an asset to Northampton and can be used to leverage ourselves for future economic development projects,&uot; said Northampton County Manager Wayne Jenkins.

However, in light of the many land application systems in the county that are out of compliance with permitted capacities from inflow and infiltration, McGougan disclosed several possible solutions.

&uot;For most of these systems, the cost to repair collection structures or expand treatment and disposal is not economically feasible,&uot; he said.

Presently, wastewater collected by towns/municipalities within Northampton County is pumped to either Weldon Wastewater Treatment Plant or the Roanoke Rapids Sanitary Wastewater District.

&uot;The two-county region of Northampton and Halifax County has adequate resources and infrastructure to cost effectively address the water and wastewater needs in the area,&uot; he said, citing the Roanoke Rapids Sanitary District Wastewater Treatment Plant as having sufficient capacity to function as a regional system.

&uot;The only problem with utilizing that system would be that the current cost structure makes it infeasible,&uot; he said.

He also mentioned the possibility of employing Weldon’s Wastewater Treatment Plant, but stated that due to limited reserve capacity, expansion would be necessary, leaving regionalization as the only remaining option.

&uot;Regionalization gives everyone access to the system, which is not limited by the system you have,&uot; he said, adding that it would prove inadequate for the existing systems to independently address their water and wastewater needs.

&uot;Going to a regional system would place the county in a very advantageous position should it be presented with a proposal from a company desiring to locate to the area,&uot; Jenkins said. &uot;It would definitely help to leverage for economic development.&uot;

If the county decided to employ a regional system, ownership and operation of the water and wastewater treatment facilities would be transferred to a regional authority with management of the facilities being controlled by a board made up of those participating in the system.

However, McGougan cited the option of expanding existing land application facilities that would allow the counties/municipalities to maintain more control than they would in the aforementioned structure.

&uot;Costs for acquiring adequate tracts of land to construct the necessary amount of land application facilities would be extremely expensive,&uot; he said, citing 350-450 acres that would need to be purchased for the project to be possible.

&uot;The most important outcome of this study is that we are learning to work together,&uot; he said.

Jenkins said the information will help the county to decide a future direction and is looking to schedule work sessions to discuss the implications of the study in detail as it pertains to Northampton County.