To the Residents of Briar Chapel,
Hope all of you are well. Spring is coming which is such a beautiful time in our community. Before I jump into the latest updates on wastewater in Briar Chapel, I have an important update about the BCCA Board. Yesterday, Shelley Colbert submitted her resignation from the BCCA Board. Shelley was elected to the board in November 2019 and served as Vice-President on the board. In April 2020, Shelley stepped down from the Vice-President role, continuing to serve as a board member, due to differing views from the rest of the board on governance, compliance and financial oversight. Since then, she has often been the lone dissenter, reminding the board of their governance and fiduciary responsibilities and pointing out when procedures adopted by the board had not been followed. In explaining her reasons for resigning, she points to recent board decisions and the individual actions of the board’s president with respect to wetland and wastewater treatment issues as well as the selective withholding and distribution of important information for board decisions to all board members. Shelley is an asset to our community and we regret that she is no longer on the board.
SCN Followup Questions with ONSWC John McDonald)
After the March 8th Town Hall, we asked Mr. McDonald (ONSWC) to meet with us and at his request we sent him a list of questions for our meeting. Last week, Mr. McDonald told us that after speaking to the BCCA he would be sending the answers to our questions to the BCCA to post on their website. We responded to Mr. McDonald and the BCCA in the hopes they would reconsider. We are disappointed that we are not being given an opportunity to discuss our questions directly with Mr. McDonald. On Monday, the BCCA posted the SCN followup questions and responses. Unfortunately, two of our questions had been omitted:
7. ONSWC purchased a system that has had a significant number of infrastructure issues. What is your perspective on Newland’s role in the problems with the WW system infrastructure?
8. How do you feel about the effectiveness of the Tri-Party Council?
It is not clear whether these questions were missed, removed or Mr. McDonald felt that he could not answer them.
From the remaining questions and responses, there are several items to note:
· ONSWC plans to submit the permit modification request to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ) for the odor control improvements by the end of March and the anticipated timeline for approval is 60 days. SCN asked when they would need to be approved by in order for ONSWC to move forward with these plans? ONSWC response: If DEQ does not approve the design, we cannot build it.
· During the Town Hall, Mr McDonald stated that ONSWC has invested $600,000 in recent upgrades/repairs to the Briar Chapel WW system. Based on their filing with NCUC, the projected cost of the WWTP expansion is $3.475m. SCN asked what would be the impact on rates to customers from these upgrades and expansion? ONSWC response: It is difficult to project the rates at this point, with not all the construction cost finalized, not all the future customers and flows tied on, and of course all costs are subject to scrutiny of the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) and Public Staff.
· Each month ONSWC reports the volume of reclaimed water they generate from the WWTP and the volume of reclaimed water that is discharged through the spray irrigation system. If more reclaimed water Is generated than is discharged in the spray irrigation (as is typical in the winter months), the levels in the retention pond increase. From 9/21/2020 – 1/31/2021, ONSWC generated over 26 million gallons in reclaimed water. During that same time period, they discharged almost 9.6 million gallons in reclaimed water through spray irrigation. The remaining 16.4 million gallons should have increased the retention pond levels. Yet, during this same period of time, the retention ponds declined in volume by 4.8 million gallons – this discrepancy of 21.4 million gallons of reclaimed water is unaccounted for. SCN provided Mr. McDonald with a report with the details of this analysis and asked can you help us understand this discrepancy? ONSWC response: There are numerous factors that could affect the volumes calculated, rain, evaporation, water stored in line, etc. There have not been any “clandestine” discharges to creeks or other areas.
· ONSWC is in the process of selling three of their WW systems in Pender County. In the past, Mr. McDonald has told us he plans to sell all of his wastewater systems and leave North Carolina. We asked, now that you are making progress on the Briar Chapel system, do you still intend to sell once these problems are resolved? ONSWC response: There is no current plan to sell the Briar Chapel system. Could that change? Of course, but there are no immediate plans to sell the Briar Chapel system.
Future Rate Increases
As stated above, to date Mr. McDonald has reported having spent $600,000 on upgrades and repairs and based on their recent NCUC filing, the projected cost of the WWTP expansion is $3.475m. Utility companies have two ways to recoup these costs: 1) through connection fees for new homes or new commercial development that connects to the WWTP or 2) through monthly rate increases to their customers. Both of these require approval from the NCUC.
On March 8th , ONSWC submitted to NCUC a Motion to Increase Connection Fees to the Briar Chapel WW system. 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 for Newland. We agree with ONSWC, that the new development which is driving this expansion should help offset the capital costs for the WWTP expansion 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 to customers.
SCN has sent a letter to NCUC expressing our support for ONSWC’s Motion to Increase Connection Fees. We also sent an email to the BCCA board members asking if the BCCA will intervene on behalf of ONSWC to shift some of the cost of the WWTP expansion to our developer and away from Briar Chapel residents?
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.”
We do not think that the BCCA understood SCN’s request. We feel that ONSWC’s request to increase connection fees is in the interest of existing Briar Chapel residents and that future residents and commercial interests should pay a larger share of costs of the wastewater plant expansion. We feel strongly that this will help in offsetting future costs to Briar Chapel residents and expect that after the repairs and expansion are completed, we will likely see ONSWC file a motion for a rate increase with the NCUC.
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 continguous 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.
3. Herndon Farms (formerly Rigsbee Farms) consists of 6 properties (AKPAR 18750, 18896, 18897, 02752 and 93852) which totals 119.28 acres of property located east and west of 15/501. The western portion runs just north of the Briar Chapel community from the Veranda over to Bennett Mountain. This property is contiguous to Briar Chapel. In 2019, a concept plan was submitted to Chatham County.
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.
NCDEQ Issues Revised Permit
On March 19th, NCDEQ issued a revised permit for Briar Chapel’s WWTP and Reclaimed Water Irrigation system. This revision was in response to a permit modification request to convert Package E (medians on Briar Chapel Parkway and Great Ridge Parkway), F (Homes in Wildwind Area) and G (Great Meadows Park area) to dedicated reclaimed water irrigation and expansion of spray fields to 250,000 gpd.
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:
· Work has started on the forcemain bypass 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 wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) expansion has also started. 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 NC DEQ by end of March. ONSWC needs expedited approval in 60 days of this permit modification to make these improvements.
· NC DEQ is reviewing two 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 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 close to 500,000 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: $50,399.95 (491 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