Rodney Tart, water meeting, Jan. 14

Rodney Tart, of Wilson-based Green Engineering, answers questions during a public meeting at the Pasquotank County Courthouse, Tuesday evening.

Pasquotank County officials want to hear from the public as they begin work on a master plan to address the county’s water and sewer needs for the next 20 years.

The county held a public input session Tuesday night at the Pasquotank County Courthouse and will hold meetings Thursday at the Weeksville Lions Club and Jan. 23 at the Newland Volunteer Fire Department. All the meetings are scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Rodney Tart of Wilson-based Green Engineering, who is working with the county to develop the plan, is conducting the public meetings.

Richard Witherow, who lives on Pot O Gold Trail in the Brite Meadows neighborhood, said some of the houses on his street are having trouble with septic systems because the ground is wet and the neighborhood is near swampy areas. He asked if any consideration was being given to expanding the availability of sewer service.

Tart said that possibility would be looked at during the development of the plan.

Witherow, who was the only member of the general public to attend the meeting Tuesday night, also asked about de-salinization of water from the Albemarle Sound as a way to protect the aquifer by not drawing as much water from wells to supply the county’s water needs.

Tart said de-salinization is an expensive process and that would be a major consideration. He said the plan will look at hydrology and consider the stability of area aquifers long-term and whether any changes need to be made to ensure the long-term health and stability of the aquifers.

Tart said during a presentation to Pasquotank commissioners Monday that it’s a good idea to do community outreach at the outset of any planning process.

“I commend you for that,” Tart said. “You’re doing this the right way. You’re doing it (getting public input) up front.”

Tart said county officials have been good stewards of county resources and have done a good job of mapping pipes and keeping track of the infrastructure’s condition.

“Right now you’re looking pretty good,” Tart said.

Tart said one question for the county to consider is when it should expand its reverse-osmosis plant rather than continuing to operate its conventional plant. He said Pasquotank is fortunate to have an RO plant, which is the highest technology available in water treatment.

“That’s the purest of all water that there is,” he said.

Commissioners said some residents in the Weeksville area will likely mention concerns about damage caused by “hard water.” And they said residents of the northern part of the county may express concerns about water pressure.

Tart said water and sewer are critical to the county’s future development.

“In the county you have a lot of challenges but you also have a lot of opportunities,” Tart said. “Your master plan is going to be a whole lot about vision — what you want the county to be.”

Commissioner Frankie Meads said residents living near the RO discharge point on the Albemarle Sound say the discharge is killing trees and running fish away.

David Smithson, the county’s water director, said the county is involved in a regular discharge testing program with the state. He said the county has not gotten any negative feedback from state regulators about the discharge.

Smithson and County Manager Sparty Hammett said the water in the sound has become saltier in recent years but it’s not clear that it’s being caused by RO discharge.

Commissioner Cecil Perry said there also is a growing problem of saltwater intrusion affecting farmland in the Weeksville area.

The county currently budgets about $6.2 million annually for water and sewer expenses. The county has about 7,500 water connections and more than 200 miles of distribution lines. It operates two water treatment plants: the RO plant and a conventional treatment plant. The county’s water treatment capacity is 4.7 million gallons a day.