The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority and Duke / Progress Energy will collaborate to construct a water line for a small, largely low-income community on the outskirts of New Hanover County.
The project comes after officials with the water and sewer utility raised questions about the future safety of the drinking water supply for the Flemington Community. While the Flemington water supply is currently safe, concerns about the movement of groundwater contamination from nearby coal ash basins at the Sutton Power Plant launched talks between the two utilities.
After attorneys with the Southern Environmental Law Center and representatives from Cape Fear River Watch voiced alarm about the potential deal, the CFPUA Board voted unanimously Wednesday morning to enter into a cost-sharing agreement with Duke Energy.
CFPUA Spokesperson Mike McGill says constructing the new water line was part of the Authority’s master plan. Questions around potential groundwater contamination accelerated the execution.
“While we can’t say our customers aren’t paying for it, there are no new additional costs to our customers for this project.”
That’s because the money is coming from existing CFPUA funds in its water emergency repair and water developer agreement projects.
The other major concern raised by the environmental groups is still unresolved. Duke officials asked the CFPUA to agree to give up any future plans to drill wells in a roughly 17-square mile area of the county. But that region will connect to the CFPUA’s main water system -- and wells were never in the cards.
However, the Board did vote to withhold agreement on that point pending further negotiation.
Erin Culbert, a spokesperson for Duke Energy, adds that language in the agreement would not have prohibited drilling private wells. And Duke's request was unrelated to further concerns about groundwater contamination.
“I think some of the organizations were basically insinuating that Duke Energy had a much broader impact to groundwater in the area. And that’s not the case.”
Culbert also says that once Duke closes down its coal-fired facility in December and brings a natural gas operation online, the utility will launch engineering studies to determine the safest and most efficient ways to decommission the ash basins.