To the Residents of Briar Chapel,
Hope all of you are well. We have several important updates on our wastewater system:
ONSWC Stops Approving New Sewer Connections for New Homes in Briar Chapel
On February 3rd, the BCCA sent out an announcement that the planned wastewater town hall would be postponed. The reason for this postponement is significant. ONSWC has stopped approving new sewer connections for new homes under construction in Briar Chapel. In the BCCA’s notice, the blame was placed on NCDEQ for delaying approval of three permit modifications that would convert some potable irrigation to reclaimed water and allow construction of additional spray irrigation fields bringing Briar Chapel up to 521,434gpd.
The problem is capacity. NCDEQ issued a permit renewal on January 14, 2021 that increases Briar Chapel’s spray irrigation capacity to 206,767gpd and allows them to construct another 134,837gpd (for a total of 341,564gpd). Over the last 12 months, Briar Chapel’s WWTP has averaged 202,780 gpd in wastewater volume through the plant. ONSWC is less than 4,000 gpd from the limit placed on their permit. We congratulate Mr. McDonald (ONSWC) for having the integrity to not place more demand on the system until they have the permitted capacity to handle the volume.
The fact that NCDEQ has not yet approved these permit mods is not surprising. With the history of problems associated with the Briar Chapel wastewater system, we want NCDEQ to carefully analyze the modifications to the permit. The agency is underfunded, understaffed and dealing with Covid. These delays were entirely predictable.
When the BCCA board decided to give Newland their support on approval of the final sections of Briar Chapel, it was contingent on Tom Speer’s assessment that the Briar Chapel system had sufficient capacity. ONSWC shared their information, SCN shared our information and provided consultation with our wastewater engineer, Rod Butler. Mr. Speer decided there was sufficient capacity based on his assumption that permit modifications that were just being submitted would be approved in time. When Tom Speer presented to the CC BOC in October and November he stated that there was sufficient capacity to support the approval of Phase 13 Section 3 and Phase 14 within the Briar Chapel Community. The fact was the capacity was not yet in place, it was dependent on these approvals. This information was not fully disclosed to the Chatham County commissioners or the Briar Chapel residents putting this community at risk.
It raises the question: Why would the BCCA support approval of Newland’s plats knowing there was not adequate wastewater facilities in place to support the growth? Why would the BCCA testify on behalf of Newland before the CC commissioners stating there was sufficient capacity to support approval of these plats?
SCN does not want to STOP growth in Briar Chapel. SCN endorses responsible growth and was opposed to the approval of the plats until sufficient capacity was in place and the reoccurring problems with the wastewater system were resolved. Responsible growth is essential in order to ensure the health, safety and welfare of the residents of Briar Chapel.
SCN Submits Public Comment on Pending Permit Modifications for our WWTP/Spray Irrigation System
On February 3rd, SCN submitted a letter with public comments on the three pending permit modifications for our WWTP/Spray irrigation system. NCDEQ does not hold public hearings for input to permit renewals or modifications for non-discharge permits (permits that use reclaimed water spray irrigation) so we felt it was important to document our concerns for NCDEQ’s consideration as part of their permit review process.
Meetings with Chatham County Commissioners
In January we had meetings with three of our Chatham County Comissioners: Karen Howard, Diana Hales and Franklin Gomez. On February 5th, we met with Jim Crawford (District 4). Mr. Crawford was direct. He did not feel that anyone of the CC BOC would be willing to approve any development outside of Briar Chapel to Briar Chapel’s wastewater system until the problems with the system are fixed. He was very hopeful that the development of the new Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) would help prevent the types of problems that have occurred in Briar Chapel. Unfortunately the UDO will not help Briar Chapel directly (we will remain grandfathered under the Compact Community Ordinance), but it could help other future development along 15/501.
We are trying to schedule a similar meeting with Mike Dasher (District 2, New Chair of CCC).
Meetings with Chatham County Environment Review Advisory Board (ERAC)
On February 6th we met with Ray Bode (Chairman of the Chatham County ERAC) a volunteer advisory board to the county commissioners. Mr. Bode was very knowledgeable about wastewater management and how wastewater facilities are regulated. We updated Mr. Bode on the problems that have been occurring here in Briar Chapel. We also discussed how Chatham County’s strategy of having developers take responsibility for providing their own wastewater utilities for their communities has the potential of creating a lot of problems for NE Chatham County.
On February 11th at 6:30pm, the ERAC has their next meeting. On the agenda, they have added an item to discuss wastewater issues in NE Chatham. They have invited us to discuss the wastewater issues that we have experienced in Briar Chapel. We applaud the ERAC for proactively raising this issue.
Status Update on Tri-Party Agreement
Here’s the lastest information we have on the status of the work outlined in the Tri-Party Agreement:
· Construction of the forcemain bypass begins on Monday, February 8th and is estimated to take 60 days. The work will temporarily close the dog park. The pipeline bypass will run from Pump Station A (on Great Ridge Parkway by the dog park) along Great Ridge Parkway to the SD force main (located behind the homes on Tyner Loop).
· The WWTP expansion is still in design phase. ONSWC is planning to utilize the existing permit, requiring expansion to 500,000gpd using extended aeration. Our understanding from Mr. McDonald is they expect construction to start in February 2021 with completion by end of 2021.
· NCDEQ issued a revised permit for our WWTP/spray irrigation system (WQ0028552) that includes: 206,727gpd in permitted/operational spray irrigation, permit to construct another 134,837gpd in spray irrigation (total of 341,564gpd) and permits the addition of the Western pond (behind Encore) to the current Central pond (located next to the WWTP) for storage of reclaimed water.
· NCDEQ is reviewing three additional permit modification requests from ONSWC that would convert some existing spray irrigation from potable to reclaimed water (e.g. Encore residential homes and Sports Courts) and allow construction of some additional spray irrigation fields (area north and south of Western pond and in common areas within Encore and behind Cliffdale homes). If approved, this would increase our spray irrigation capacity to 521,454 gpd. Estimates are that only 400,000 gpd are needed to accommodate Briar Chapel’s needs. According to NCDEQ this will make us one of the largest non-discharge (spray irrigation) wastewater systems in the Triangle.
· On 1/4/2021, SCN sent a letter to our HOA Board with a list of questions that we asked them to address on behalf of residents at their next Tri-Party Council meeting. The BCCA board has included responses to these questions in their meeting notes for the January 12th meeting. Items to note from these responses:
o Newland owns 233 acres of property contiguous to Briar Chapel. What are their plans for this property? Within Briar Chapel, Newland has completed Phase 13, section 3 and is making progress on Phase 14 (for development of townhomes off Catullo Run). Within Briar Chapel, the only remaining development is the commercial development east and west of 15/501. Outside of Briar Chapel, Newland has started clearing land for Firmage (15 home conservation subdivision). Of the remaining property that Newland owns outside of Briar Chapel, Tanya Matzen of Newland said there are no current plans to develop this property. Newland expects to be out of Briar Chapel sometime in 2022.
o ONSWC has a contractual obligation to provide Newland with 600,000 gpd capacity for Briar Chapel and Newland’s ESA. What are Newland’s plans for this extended service area? Wastewater service is being extended to Firmage as mentioned above and an adjacent single-family residence.
o ONSWC has withdrawn their NCUC application for combining Briar Chapel’s and Fearrington Village’s wastewater systems. Is ONSWC willing to request that the easement waiver granted by Chatham County for the proposed pipeline be withdrawn? John McDonald (ONSWC) has asked for more time to consider this matter.
o ONSWC has stated that they plan to sell the Briar Chapel wastewater system. Will the BCCA be notified and have input before an agreement with a new buyer is finalized? John McDonald has no immediate plans to sell the plant. ONSWC has no intention to tie in outside developments to the treatment plant. There is no statement provided about whether ONSWC will notify the BCCA if they do sell in the future.
o SCN has provided documentation of persistent and excessive odor complaints in the areas surrounding the WWTP. What steps are ONSWC/Newland/BCCA taking to resolve these odor conditions? ONSWC is first focusing on optimizing operations at the WWTP, then they will evaluate the bioxide feed systems (currently installed on 5 of our pump stations) and determine if additional systems are needed. ONSWC is continuing to work on maintenance at the WWTP, replacing equipment and making repairs. The immediate repairs will be completed by January 22nd and residents should see a decrease in odors. ONSWC is hopeful that it will have optimized operations in the next few weeks, minimized odors and have a plan in place to further implement odor controls with expansion of the WWTP.
o One final note: Tom Speer asked ONSWC if there are third party entities that monitor odors in communities to provide an objective record of odor episodes. It is frustrating to hear our BCCA President imply that the 295 documented resident complaints that he has received do not provide him a sufficient indicator that the odor issues surrounding the WWTP are real and need to be addressed.
· The Zoom Presentation and Q&A session being organized by the BCCA with Mr. McDonald (owner of Integra Water) and Amanda Grenier (ORC of the Briar Chapel WW system) has been postponed.
Documenting our Concerns
We are extremely thankful for the information shared with us by BC residents. We need to continue to document resident’s complaints/concerns, particularly odor issues. When you have a complaint, please call Integra Water’s customer service number 877-511-2911. To make sure your complaint is documented, we ask that you also email your concern to us at STOPCHATHAMNORTH@gmail.com. We will make sure your complaint is shared with all the appropriate parties (Integra Water, NCDEQ, BCCA board, First Residential, Amanda Grenier) and documented/tracked.
Total amount donated: $48,920.61 (475 families contributing)
Spent to date: $42,340.16 (Legal: $35,317.50, Engineering Expert: $6,142.00, Administrative: $880.66)
You can donate via PayPal by using this link:
If you prefer not to use PayPal:
You can write a check to: STOPCHATHAMNORTH and mail it to: STOPCHATHAMNORTH in care of Liz Rolison, 1900 Briar Chapel Parkway, Chapel Hill, NC 27516 or simply drop the check at Liz’s house.
We are maintaining a full accounting of these funds and will return any unused funds to all homeowners who contribute on a prorated basis. Thank you again for contributing.
StopChathamNorth is an unincorporated non-profit association representing concerned homeowners within Briar Chapel. StopChathamNorth does NOT support a regional wastewater treatment plant within the residential community of Briar Chapel. We are aware that there are several new communities surrounding Briar Chapel that are planning to utilize our WWTP, in addition to the current proposal to add Fearrington Village to our WWTP. We are opposed to all of these plans to expand Briar Chapel’s WWTP for uses outside of the Briar Chapel residential community. We also believe that the WWTP and ONSWC must be fully compliant with all governance and regulatory guidelines to ensure operations do not create a nuisance, unhealthy or hazardous conditions for Briar Chapel residents.
For more information: www.stopchathamnorth.com