Pressure problems

Published 10:31 am Monday, April 30, 2018

JACKSON – Water pressure, or rather the lack thereof, was one of the topics of discussion at the regular meeting of the Northampton County Commissioners on April 16.

An addition concerning the subject was made to the agenda at the start of the meeting. Public Works Director Kirk Rogers updated the Board about a problem some residents in the Gaston area had been having with their water.

“We had an unfortunate circumstance arise in the last two months,” Rogers stated at the beginning of his remarks.

He went on to explain the Public Works department took a water tank out of service on February 20 to perform maintenance on it. That tank is located at 3001 NC Hwy 46, Gaston, less than a mile north of where Cherry Tree Road meets the highway. The maintenance work, Rogers noted, took an extra two weeks longer than originally estimated.

Without the tank, residents in that area experienced low water pressure “at least four times a day.” Rogers reported the department did everything they could to alleviate the issue, but it still caused problems for citizens connected to that part of the system.

“On April 3, adding insult to injury, we had a water main break,” Rogers continued, noting that occurred in the same area near the out-of-service tank.

Because of the multitude of issues with the water pressure, Rogers explained they passed out public meeting notices to affected customers. The purpose of the meeting, held on April 12, was to clarify the situation.

County Manager Kimberly Turner explained further the meeting was “to try to explain the issue, give them a timeline when the issue was going to be fixed, and to also let them know we were looking into adjusting their water bills.”

Turner was the one to propose the public meeting when she learned that residents hadn’t been notified about the tank being temporarily out of service.

During the public comment portion of the commissioners meeting, one of the affected residents spoke to the Board to share her experience. Sharron Lee explained that when she turned the faucets on in her house, sometimes she would have no water at all and it would take up to three or four hours before it came back. Originally, she was told by Public Works the problem was a leak at her house.

She explained the hardships she and her neighbors faced while the water pressure issues persisted. Some of those issues stemmed from not knowing the out-of-service tank was causing the problem.

“Citizens went out and spent money on plumbers, we spent money on laundry, we spent money on drinking water,” Lee said.

She expressed frustration over the lack of notification.

Both Rogers and the Board apologized for the communication error, noting that they would strive for better notification of maintenance and other water issues in the future.

“To the citizens that were caught up in this situation, we do apologize for that,” said Chairman Robert Carter.

Vice Chair Fannie Greene said she understood the frustration, but also acknowledged that breakdowns do happen on occasion.

“We’re trying to get it resolved as quickly as possible,” Greene said. “But hopefully we’ve learned something from this experience and we’ll try to do it better next time. I appreciate your patience with us.”

Turner explained she would work with the county finance officer to make sure affected residents received reimbursement or credit on their next water bill.

“I appreciate you acknowledging that we can do better,” Commissioner Charles Tyner said to the public works director.

“Yes sir, we can do it better,” Rogers agreed.

Speaking to the News Herald on April 19, Assistant County Manager Nathan Pearce reported the water tank on Highway 46 had been put back into service on Tuesday, April 17. Following procedure, a water sample from the tank was first tested and then approved before the tank was connected back to the system.

“To my knowledge, there’s been no reported issues,” Pearce said.