The town continues its best management practice, or BMP, project, in partnership with the North Carolina Coastal Federation this week with a rain garden installation and catch basin construction at Seawater Lane on the town hall campus.
Implementation of the rain garden is planned for an area adjacent to the old fire station during a two-to-three day period. The rain garden is characterized as a typical 200-square-foot area designed to mitigate runoff by passing through a pervious layer and infiltrating groundwater to nourish ornamental grasses, sedge, herbaceous plant species, and deciduous and evergreen shrubs consistent with the town’s stormwater plan.
The catch basin construction will seal off through traffic from West Salisbury Street to Seawater Lane.
Together the two projects are one of seven funded by a 2011 grant outlined by Tracy Skrabal, NCCF southeastern regional manager and lead scientist, who addressed the board of aldermen at its July 10 meeting.
Skrabal retraced the history of the Grey to Blue Stormwater Reduction Project aimed at restoring the Hewlett’s and Bradley creeks watershed to shellfish habitat. She was introduced by town stormwater manager Jonathan Babin, who walked board members and townspeople through a presentation about the grant-supported purchase and installation of five 3,000-gallon cisterns servicing runoff from the public safety building to the town’s adjacent park, also on town hall campus. With the addition of a pump and a 10,000-gallon holding tank, stored water is used to irrigate the park’s athletic and recreation fields. With a one inch rainfall producing as much as 15,000 gallons of reusable rainwater, Babin reported nearly 28,000 gallons were captured in June.
Digital water meters
The Town of Wrightsville Beach is entering its third year of water meter replacement, said assistant to the director of public works Steve Dellies.
“They have a life of 20 years, typically; ours have been in the ground between 25 to 30 years.They’re aging,” he said.
Starting with the north end, 350 meters out of the 2,800 to be replaced are in the ground now, Dellies said during a July 11 phone interview.
He said upgrading water meters is nearly a full-time job but manually reading meters creates room for human error.
“The new, touch read meters are read electronically by waving a wand. The tip reads the meter. There’s no misinterpreting a number,” Dellies said.
Several years ago, he confirmed a property owner was overcharged for water usage.
“We had some problems with one error, a manually read meter, when an irrigation account was transposed with a domestic account causing an overcharge in the $47,000 range,” Dellies said. “The bill was paid by auto draft and was not immediately detected. That was human error.”
The mistake is not the sole reason for replacing the meters but Dellies said, “It’s another justification for why we shouldn’t continue.”
The water meter replacement program has been slow to start, Dellies said.
Funded initially with money that had been allocated to replace meters, the project is now supported with $96,500 from taxpayers.
“Now we’re doing a wholesale change out so we can get meters swapped over to these electronic meters. They’re actually a magnetic meter, they have no moving internal parts, so there is nothing that can wear out,” Dellies said.
Dellies had just returned from the Wrightsville Sound side of the Heide Trask Drawbridge where several parcels are still within the town’s extraterritorial limits.
The Galleria LLC, owners of recently de-annexed 12.2 acres of former town property, requested the town terminate its accounts to its property. The town has removed water meters so far.
“We have quite a bit of plumbing under their property that we have utility easements on. What I’m hoping to do is get in touch with them and get an easement on the front of their property, basically fronting Wrightsville Avenue, and abandon all of our other claims. I think it would be beneficial to both of us,” Dellies said.
Dellies said he thought the transfer could work itself out easily.
“The utility authority, which already provides sewer service, will also provide water,” he said.
He hopes to abandon the pipes in place, run a new line to service the New Hanover County ABC store that remains within the town jurisdiction, cap off other pipes and leave them in place.
“That way nobody has any maintenance on them. Basically when they start the excavation, they’re going to dig them out anyway,” Dellies said. “If they’re planning to put a subdivision in there, the way the pipes currently run, it would be useless to them. It’s best to be able to abandon them and move our service along the road.”
Replacing water mains
By the end of September, the town should begin replacing old water mains in the central area of North Lumina Avenue along Henderson, Oxford and Greensboro streets.
“We’re trying to get rid of all this old galvanized metal pipe that’s out there,” Dellies said.
The pipe metal reacts with chemicals in the water, causing tuberculation.
“It’s kind of nasty and grows in the pipe,” he said. “When you have a 2-inch water main, you may only have three-fourths inch open because of all this rust and tuberculation. We’re trying to get that out of the system.”
Replacement of the water mains is a big-ticket item, expected to cost the town upwards of $700,000 before completion.
“It affects a lot of residents … and it’s been a nagging complaint for almost two years. We have that same pipe in other locations, Nathan and Sunset, Crane Street, Mallard Street, North Channel. We’ve been slowly working on them over time to get rid of it and replace the ones we have the most complaints about,” he said.
The tuberculation does not affect water quality but does produce a rusty discoloration.
“It’s an ionization process … it’s not a bacteria that affects human health, but nobody wants to turn their faucet on and have orange or brown water with little particles,” Dellies said.