Wells that represent a seismic shift in Sampson’s water service and will reduce dependence on outside purchases in the coming years will likely come online permanently “within the next three weeks,” the county’s Public Works director said Monday.
The wells received the state nod earlier this year and subsequently underwent a battery of tests to ensure their reliability. While those tests are ongoing, the wells have actually been in operation on a manual basis since the end of May and early June.
“We’re very satisfied with what we see,” said Sampson Public Works director Lee Cannady, noting just a few sporadic dirty water complaints that have been made during the trial period. “We’re not on automatic yet. We’re really close. I’m thinking within the next three weeks.”
There are a few issues still to resolve, including having the contractor “shave” one of the pump’s impellers to facilitate the process, he noted.
“We’ve been operating them for about a month and a half now, but it’s been on manually,” said Cannady. “We’ve had a bug here and there. We’re fine tuning it and working the kinks out before we go fully automatic.”
Once that switch is flipped it will officially mark the beginning of a new era of water production in Sampson County, one expected to be celebrated by local officials and county staff who oversaw the project from the beginning.
Up to this point, Sampson has been completely dependent on outside means to provide water to its customers, including purchases from Dunn, the City of Clinton and others. When the wells come online — one on N.C. 403, the other on Old Warsaw Road — the amount of water being purchased from Dunn is expected to reduce by 50 percent.
Sampson currently maintains in excess of 500 miles of water line serving 5,100 customers. For many years, Sampson has purchased its water from area municipalities, with the majority being supplied by the cities of Dunn and Clinton.
A water study conducted years ago determined that the cost of developing and equipping wells to provide a groundwater supply for the county’s existing distribution system could cost less than purchasing water from various municipal sources.
From there, Phase I included the development of test wells, which revealed three county locations that could consistently pump groundwater. Through Phase II, the two best-performing production wells for water consumption were constructed — permanent wells at N.C. 403 (Faison Highway) and Old Warsaw Road by way of a $1.3 million Sampson County Wellhead Completion Project.
At the beginning of February, Dewberry engineers and county officials said the wells would be operational in a matter of days. By the end of February, Cannady noted that Dewberry’s certification of the wells had received N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources approval but some mechanical issues were still being addressed.
About three months later, the wells became operational.
The two permanent wells will produce 600 gallons per minute, tallying about 800,000 gallons a day. One well cannot be pumped for more than a 12-hour period, so the two wells will be rotated.
The county currently purchases surface water from Dunn, and groundwater from Clinton, Roseboro, Turkey and Garland. In 2013, Sampson bought more than 1,030,000 gallons daily, most of it from Dunn. With 50 percent of those purchases able to be eliminated, the county looks to save about $270,000 annually, with monthly purchases from Dunn alone tallying about $45,000.
Early indications from the manual well operations do not have county officials expecting any different.
“In just the short-term we’ve seen a drastic reduction (in outside water needed),” Cannady noted. However, the purchases are still being made and will likely be gauged in the coming months. “Over the weekend and today we’re buying from Dunn and running one of the wells.”
Once the switch is flipped for the wells to operate by themselves, the system will continue to be monitored with the requisite amount of tinkering taking place.
“For the next couple months we’re just trying to manipulate the system and see what works for everyone involved,” Cannady concluded.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121. Follow us on twitter @SampsonInd.