About a year ago, county officials were told they would likely have to pay close to $1.4 million to treat cloudy drinking water in the northern end of the county, and began seeking funding opportunities to move the project forward.
Last week, the Sampson County Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution accepting loan and grant funds from the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, which offered $1,351,000 (state loan of $337,750 and state grant of $1,103,250) from the Water Infrastructure Fund for the construction of a manganese dioxide treatment system.
In September 2016, Dewberry engineer Matthew West talked about the costs of developing and installing treatment systems for two existing groundwater wells on N.C. 403 (Faison Highway) and Old Warsaw Road. The cloudy water, he said, was caused by oxidized iron and manganese.
Despite its color, West said that the water was safe as those oxidized iron and manganese levels tested at just one-20th of the enforceable level. Last year, county officials were told that the total project cost for two wells to be treated with manganese dioxide, encompassing construction, engineering contingency, legal and administrative fees, would tally $1,351,000, or about $676,000 per well.
“Long-term, the manganese dioxide method seems to be the most operational and cost-effective,” West said last year, noting side-by-side comparisons of that well water treatment system as opposed to an ion exchange method.
He said the manganese dioxide treatment offered the greatest operational flexibility, with smoother integration into the existing system and the ability to recover a significant portion of the waste stream.
West said the difference between Sampson and other counties that do not have the dirty water problem is that, for many counties, water is produced from wells and consumed within a few days. “The system is small enough and the demand is high enough that it is consumed,” West said, noting much longer detention times in the Sampson system.
The water is safe, West said, but that is a hard sell to consumers who use the water and customers who would potentially purchase the water and offset operational costs for the Sampson system.
“When you look at it, it looks bad,” then-Public Works director Lee Cannady said last year. “It’s safe to drink, but that’s hard to convince somebody.”
Test well approved
A project that would build Sampson’s water production system and enhance the supply of water to Enviva and surrounding area at the I-40/Faison interchange (Exit 355) has taken another step forward.
Bids for the Sampson County I-40/N.C. 403 Test and Production Well were received last month, with a bid from McCall Brothers Inc. of Charlotte — base bid of $219,300 — being the lowest. That fell about $35,000 under the project estimate of $250,000-$255,000.
The base bid included the use of 16-inch diameter polyvinyl chloride (PVC) well casing and 12-inch diameter 304 stainless steel well screens for the production well.
The test and production well will provide a 6-inch test well to determine the initial yield and water quality. The test well will be converted to a permanent monitoring well after all testing activities are complete. A 16-inch production well will follow.
The project is funded by the Golden Leaf Foundation and the Economic Development Administration (EDA) along with a local contribution by Sampson County. The funding is separated into two contracts, with the test and production well totaling $280,500 and well head completion totaling approximately $1.09 million.
The board tentatively approved the contract in the amount of $219,300, with the stipulation the EDA approve the bid and award documents. The total Phase I construction budget is $280,500, including $61,200 in contingency funds.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.