To the Residents of Briar Chapel,
Hope all of you are well. We have a lot to report on over the last week.
Cease and Desist Order Issued to SCN by BCCA
SCN can no longer provide direct access to BCCA documents stored on the Briar Chapel Life website. On March 17th SCN received an email from First Residential prohibiting us from providing direct access to their documents on our website (all of our emails are posted on www.stopchathamnorth.com ). SCN had included direct links to make it easier for those receiving our emails to access the information. SCN members remain committed to providing honest, unbiased information on wastewater issues to our community. We will provide links directly to the documents on the BriarChapelLife website, but you will have to log in to the site to find and view the documents.
SCN gave all of this careful consideration and elected to support the BCCA request and remain committed to working with the BCCA in the best interest of the residents of the Briar Chapel community.
SCN Meeting with ONSWC (John McDonald) Cancelled by the BCCA
We want residents to be aware that Mr. McDonald requested to be added to our SCN email list and since early February has been following our posts. He has been attentive in responding to our questions and has provided clarifications that enable us to provide better information to our residents. In the past, ONSWC has not had a lot of credibility with Briar Chapel residents, but we believe Mr. McDonald has been working to repair our confidence in his company.
After the Town Hall meeting we reached out to Mr. McDonald to request a meeting with ONSWC. Mr. McDonald agreed and he asked that we present our questions in advance so that he could review them with his staff to ensure that his responses were accurate and complete.
We sent Mr. McDonald a list of questions from SCN. This week we were informed by Mr. McDonald that the BCCA has asked him to provide the answers to our questions back to the BCCA directly. Why? As residents, we are instructed to contact utility companies that service our community directly with questions and concerns. Why has the BCCA prevented Mr. McDonald from speaking directly to SCN? We hope that the BCCA allows all of these questions and Mr. McDonald’s responses to be shared with Briar Chapel residents.
Followup on BCCA Town Hall on Wastewater Issues
On March 8th the BCCA organized a Town Hall to discuss wastewater issues. The panel included: John McDonald (Owner) and Amanda Grenier (Operator) of ONSWC, Tanya Matzen (VP of Operations for Newland) of NNP Briar Chapel, and Jerry Cole and Cathy Washburn of BCCA.
The meeting opened with a presentation by Mr. McDonald, providing a good overview of how the plant operates, the significant repairs that have been made to the system and the plans for the permited expansion and proposed odor control system. The remainder of the meeting involved reading of pre-submitted questions with responses. There was no opportunity for residents to voice their opinions.
Key points made during the meeting:
· Mr. McDonald discussed plans for adding an odor control system at the WWTP, which would consist of:
1) conversion from extended aeration to diffused aeration (replaces surface aerators which put aerosols into the air with bubblers that work from the bottom of the tank)
2) provide rigid covering over EQ basins where wastewater enters the plant and dump room where sludge is stored to capture the principle sources of odor
3) implementation of a Biofilter (made by Evoqua) where odorous air can be pumped through a biofiltration process which will remove 99% of the hydrogen sulfide in the air as well as other odorous compounds.
Important to note: The odor control improvements will require a permit modification. ONSWC expects to submit the permit modification by the end of March. As long an NCDEQ can expedite the approval these improvements, the odor control should be significantly enhanced with the expansion of the WWTP. In a response to questions we sent to him about these improvements, he said “I cannot guarantee those permit changes will be approved in a timely manner to allow us to make these improvements.”
· In response to a question about negative health effects for odors and spray irrigation, Jerry Cole made several points:
1) The spray irrigation testing was compared to the NCDEQ limits established in the permit for Briar Chapel. These limits only apply to the reclaimed water as it is leaving the WWTP. Once it goes into the retention ponds, additional contamination can occur (e.g. animal feces). The permit for Briar Chapel’s spray irrigation system does not require that ONSWC ensure that the reclaimed water discharged through spray irrigation meet these same standards.
2) Of the tests performed, only fecal coliform is dangerous for human health and there was only one test that showed an exceedance on fecal coliform in the test results. Jerry was referring to the testing done by AWT (hired by the BCCA). There were only 11 tests done by AWT for fecal coliform and one exceeded levels set in our permit (9%). There were also 34 exceedences for fecal coliform shown on the ONSWC test results. Mr. McDonald has clarified that of the 34 exceedances for fecal coliform found in the ONSWC test results, 20 were from Pokeberry Creek and not the irrigation system. Finally, the other tests results (e.g, ammonia nitrogen, BOD, TSS, pH) showed exceedances that can be harmful to our environment and Pokeberry Creek.
The Motion to Increase Connection Fees is an effort by ONSWC to offset some of the capital costs for the WWTP expansion. The expansion of the WWTP is required to complete a small amount of residential development and a more significant amount of commercial development. We agree with ONSWC, that the new development which is driving this expansion should help offset the capital costs for this upgrade with an increase in the connection fee from $1,500 to $4,000 per residential equivalent units (REUs), thereby reducing the impact of a future rate increase.
SCN sent the BCCA a question asking “ONSWC has filed a motion with the NCUC to increase conection fees for new construction in Briar Chapel to offset some of the costs of expanding the Briar Chapel WWTP, end the sewage spills at Force Main A and improve sewage odor control. Will the BCCA intervene on behalf of ONSWC to shift some of the cost of these improvements to our developer and away from Briar Chapel residents? If not, why not?
Cathy Washburn of the BCCA responded, “This is a highly regulated arena. The NCUC considers many criteria when approving rate increases, even for new areas coming onboard. It is the utility’s responsibility to notify affected customers. Since this increase is for new onboards, I don’t see a role in this for BCCA.”
SCN has sent a letter to NCUC expressing our support for ONSWC’s Motion to Increase Connection Fees. We feel strongly that this will help in offsetting future costs to Briar Chapel residents.
· On March 18th, the BCCA published follow-up Q&A from this meeting. There are several points to note from these responses:
o Question: What is being done to preserve our real estate values? Tri-Party Response: Property values will be protected if odors can be mitigated and become a non-issue. Also, residents can help by refraining from complaining about odors on public websites, like NextDoor and other public media. Rather, please contact FSR or the Tri-Party Council with your concerns. SCN Comment: Severe odor conditions have been going on for more than two years. Residents would not feel compelled to post on social media websites if they did not feel their concerns were being ignored.
o Question: Mr. McDonald said ONSWC would serve only Briar Chapel. What does that mean exactly? Tri-Party Response: ONSWC only intends to serve the Briar Chapel development and Newland’s additional land. Technically the US Steel (Encore), Firmage, Herndon Woods, Willow Oak Montessori and Sledd Thomas parcels were not part of the original Briar Chapel. ONSWC has no intention of tying on new developments to the Briar Chapel system. SCN Comment: Newland owns 233 acres of land outside of Briar Chapel. Is this the additional land they refer to? If so, what is planned to be developed on Newland’s additional land?
o Question: The planned (WWTP) expansion opens up the interest of other areas in linking to our facility. What control do we have long-term in preventing the County or DEQ from approving new users of our capacity? Tri-Party Response: Any new development that would like to tie into the Briar Chapel system would have to be approved by NCDEQ and the NCUC. The NCUC would issue public notices and hold public hearings, where the public can voice their opinions. Given the ardent opposition of the Briar Chapel residents to allow additional developments to tie onto the system, it is unlikely that would be approved. SCN Comment: According to the NCUC Public Staff, ONSWC can add development on contiguous property as long as they have sufficient capacity and that property is not already part of another service area. They are only required to notify NCUC. Public hearings would only be done if the request is to add development that is not contiguous to Briar Chapel.
o Question: I’m curious why Briar Chapel chose to build houses so close to the plant? Tri-Party Response: The WWTP has been in the same location since the inception of Briar Chapel in 2005. There were always homes planned to be built in the areas surrounding the plant, as is done commonly in other neighborhoods with private utility systems. SCN Comment: In the 2012 application for amendment of the permit to build Briar Chapel, Newland stated, “location of WWTP was selected based on its centralized location (in the community), its distance from existing developed areas, its separation from areas to be developed and its topography”. Newland then acquired US Steel property (Encore) and developed the homes that are located directly on two sides of the WWTP. According to NCUC Public Staff, NCDEQ and several of the Chatham County Commissioners we have spoken to, the most significant problem with the Briar Chapel WW system is the location of the WWTP at the top of a hill and the proximity to homes and amenities.
New Development Gearing Up in our Area
We have been monitoring new development activities in our area that are contiguous to Briar Chapel.
1. Durham Farms consists of four properties (AKPAR 02807, 02820, 02842 and 02869) which totals 308.85 acres of property located north and south of Andrews Store Rd and Parker Herndon. This property is contiguous to Briar Chapel lying south of Hawk Point Road.
2. Vickers Benett consists of 21 properties (AKPAR 89206, 18914, 60653, 18857, 89272, 87996, 18856, 69057, 79965, 87093, 89395, 89281, 80493, 18847, 60719, 79288, 66592, 93154, 93155, 93156 and 93157) which totals 92.48 acres of property located from the corner of 15/501 and Jack Bennett Rd and extends north up to Vickers Road. This property is contiguous to Briar Chapel.
We have reached out to the Chatham County Planning Department (Jason Sullivan) and he has confirmed that these developers have been in contact with his staff and are planning to submit proposals for development under the Compact Community Ordinance. No information is available yet on how these developments are planning to handle wastewater.
Status Update on Tri-Party Agreement
Here’s the latest information we have on the status of the work outlined in the Tri-Party Agreement:
· Latest update on the forcemain bypass is work is starting and should be completed in May. The pipeline bypass will run from Pump Station A (on Great Ridge Parkway by the dog park) along Great Ridge Parkway to the SD-East force main (located behind the homes on Tyner Loop).
· Work on the WWTP expansion is starting with excavation beginning week of March 15th. Equipment and materials have been staged. ONSWC is planning to utilize the existing permit, requiring expansion to 500,000 gpd using extended aeration. Our understanding from Mr. McDonald is they expect construction to be completed by end of 2021.
· Odor Control system is currently being designed and permit modification will be submitted to DEQ by end of March. ONSWC needs expedited approval of this permit modification to make these improvements.
· 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, homes in the Wildwind area and Sports Courts) and allows 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.
· The Tri-Party Council met on March 9th, 2021. We are waiting for these minutes to be posted.
What’s in Your Water and Your Environment
The Briar Chapel Democrats are holding an event “What’s in Your Water and Your Environment” on Wednesday, March 31st at 7pm accessible via Zoom. http://evite.me/yQUwHzmEpM The presenter is Lisa Sorg who is an award-winning environmental investigative reporter with NC Policy Watch.
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 and spray irrigation 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: $50,369.95 (490 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. 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