Pine Hall residents Bill and Devonne Duncanson are asking Walnut Cove officials to extend town water lines to their community after spending a year living under a do-not-drink order from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
“My particular situation is arsenic,” said Devonne Duncanson. “They say the safe level is 10 and ours is at 108. People in this town have the luxury of turning on the faucet and getting water. We do not have that luxury.”
The Duncansons live near the Belews Creek Steam Station, an area environmentalists claim has been polluted by the nearby coal ash pond, but they say they do not know or care where the pollution is coming from. They just want a solution to be able to have safe water.
“Duke is delivering water but we got a notice last week that that water would stop soon,” said Duncanson, noting that almost all of her neighbors are dealing with similar problems and receiving water from Duke Energy as well. “There are about 250 homes that are affected. I don’t know what we will do when Duke stops delivering water. I don’t know how we can help ourselves. It is a huge problem for us.”
She said water from their current well, which only produces half a gallon per minute, can be filtered but said the process uses a lot of water — a prohibitive problem for a naturally dry area of the county.
The Duncansons moved to the property three years ago, investing their life savings into what they hoped would be a dream retirement home.
“Everything I have is tied up in this home,” said Duncanson. “Our property value has gone down as a result of this and we can’t sell it because who wants to buy a house where you can’t drink the water.”
She said the only solution to the problem she could come up with would be for the town to extend its water lines by about three miles to provide water for the people in that community.
“We really need you to make this a priority and help us,” she told the Walnut Cove Board of Commissioners last week. “I understand it is expensive, but we have no water and we can’t live there without water. We can’t filter it, we can’t drill another well, and we cannot sell. The whole area is contaminated. I would love suggestions.
But the commissioners, although sympathetic about the issue, said extending water for that distance was not an easy proposition.
“The concern is cost,” said Commissioner Sharon Conaway. “We don’t have the funds and I don’t think we have the capacity to take on that kind of additional customer base. I am not ruling it out, but there would have to be some funding available for us to even consider addressing this.”
She noted that the town already purchased water from Forsyth County during summer months to meet increased demand.
“I think we need to bring the county water authority in on this,” she said. “I do not know the solution but I think it is a problem.”
Town Manager Bobby Miller roughly estimated that a two mile extension would cost $370,000 plus costs for creek crossings, hydrants, in-line valves, meters and easement work.
“For the town to supply water there would be a far reaching project,” he said. “We would have to dig at least one or two more wells. If you are extending it for three miles, you are looking at at least half a million dollars, and when everything thing is said and done you could be talking about three quarters of million dollars.”
He said such an expansion could also require the town to hire additional staff.
“Right now we have between 600 and 700 water customers,” he said. “If we add on 200 more customers you are talking about a third increase right there.
“It is not an easy fix,” he said, adding that an extension project would also take a considerable amount of time. “If we decided today to extend the water service you are probably looking at at least a two year project. It is not just a snap of the fingers and you can turn the spigot on.”
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.