U.S. Water News Online
RALEIGH, N.C. -- As water levels in some eastern North
Carolina aquifers drop, officials are scrambling to locate new water
sources to meet the increasing demands of a growing region.
One innovative plan is less about "new" water than it is about
recycling clean water drawn from the Castle Hayne aquifer, one of the
healthiest in the region, and piping it to other parts of the region.
PCS Phosphates, one of the heaviest water users in the region, is
permitted to withdraw 78 million gallons a day from Castle Hayne to
dewater the phosphate beds it mines.
"That's the same amount Raleigh used on a peak day last summer,"
said hydrogeologist Eric Lappala. "They use 10 million gallons a day;
the rest is pumped to the river."
Dumping 68 million gallons of some of the purest water in North
Carolina into the river could be viewed as a waste so Lappala, a
consultant with extensive experience in environmental management, and
his wife, Sherol, formerly a lobbyist for the oil industry, came up
with the idea of pumping that fresh water from Aurora to
municipalities and industries as far away as Rocky Mount,
Jacksonville, and Goldsboro.
PCS Phosphates liked the idea. "They want to pipe it to people who
might be able to use it," Eric Lappala said. People who might, in
fact, be desperate for water in a couple of years -- especially if
they're forced to reduce their groundwater withdrawals by 75 percent,
a plan currently being considered by regulators, or if the water
shortage Lappala predicts in the region by 2005 materializes. In
addition to providing a thirsty region with good water, the idea
would probably extend the longevity of PCS's mining operations by
making more beneficial use of its groundwater withdrawals.
The Lappalas formed Eagle Water Co., which has an exclusive
agreement with PCS to develop the water supply. Former Wake County
commissioner Robert Heater is also a partner.
If the fledgling company can line up enough customers and float a
suitable bond, it will become a public utility company.
"We'd like to finance it with tax-free bonds through an entity
such as a customer group or perhaps the Global TransPark," Lappala
said. "We can finance it privately, but that would result in higher
water rates." They also hope, as a public utility, they could build
the pipelines along highway rights-of-way. "It would certainly speed
up the process," Lappala said.
They've already got a head start on costs, according to Sherol
Lappala. "The water source and well fields are already there," she
said. "Keeping those costs down is a definite economic advantage."
Although the project is still in its infancy, the Lappalas are
encouraged by initial meetings with legislators and other state
"We got favorable feedback from the Public Utilities Commission
and DENR," Eric Lappala said of the Department of Environment and
Natural Resources. They've held initial briefings for at least 16
potential customers, including New Bern, Jacksonville and Goldsboro,
as well as Craven and Onslow counties, and several regional water
companies. They're scheduled to discuss the proposal with officials
from Cherry Point, Tarboro, Farmville, Greene County and Wayne County
in the future.
If all goes according to plan, they expect to have water flowing
to customers before the end of 2003.
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