Masonboro Sound proposal criticized at utility’s board meeting

by Sam Wilson
Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Opposition from residents concerned about a proposed sewage lift station in the Masonboro Sound area led a meeting of the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority Board, which also included a progress report on the search for a new executive director and the swearing-in of a new board member.

The lift station, part of the Masonboro Sound Water and Sewer Extension Project, would extend sewer services to residents in the Whiskey Creek, Windchase and Oyster Bay neighborhoods. Originally annexed by the City of Wilmington in 1998, the area is still dependent on private wells and septic tanks, the latter of which could be seeping raw sewage into the ground and water table, according to CFPUA spokesman Mike McGill.

The project would use a gravity main to conduct sewage from homes along a downhill grade to the lift station. Residents speaking at the meeting asked that the station be moved further west, where any potential spills would occur further from sensitive ecological resources including nearby salt marshes and wetlands. Frank Styers, director of engineering for the authority, responded that in order for the gravity main to be extended, the crew would need to place lines deeper – more than 30 feet in the ground at two of the scenarios considered – making construction and pipe-laying cost-prohibitive and creating uncertainties due to additional easements needing to be obtained from private land owners.

Four residents from the nearby neighborhoods spoke in opposition to the $2.52 million proposal, citing CFPUA’s history of spills from the nearby Hewletts Creek pump station, which two of the speakers faulted for the lack of edible shellfish in the once-productive sound.

Dwight Jessup from Masonboro Drive asked the board to delay its decision until the next meeting. He said the board had failed to meet its legal obligation to notify all nearby landholders, adding only seven out of 34 stakeholders had been notified of the proposed lift station, and only three of those had returned notification receipts.

The possibility of a continuance was raised by board chairman Jim Quinn, but in the absence of such a motion, the board passed the resolution, which unanimously awarded the contract to State Utility Contractors, Inc.

A report from the board’s human resources committee addressed the authority’s ongoing nationwide search for a new executive director. The board selected Minnesota-based public sector consultant firm Springsted Incorporated at the August  meeting to conduct the search. The firm is set to finalize the position’s description and begin advertising by Sept. 21, closing the posting a month later and selecting a candidate by the end of November.

The board also welcomed a new member, First Citizens Bank Senior Vice President Bill Norris, who replaced outgoing board member Keith Betts.


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